Back to Hope

People keep saying that we are in uncharted waters, that we live in a political era that is unprecedented, that these are dangerous times.

I don’t know about all that; if we knew our history a little better, we might realize that there have been contentious elections before, even some tinged with the threat of violence. America has faced a civil war, world wars, a great depression, not to mention racist and xenophobic tendencies. Presidents have been assassinated, and riots have rocked our cities in the past.

Every generation gets sucked into the lie that their generation is the harbinger of the Apocalypse, that the end of the world is right around the corner, or that the next election determines the future of everything that exists and has ever been and ever will be.

I’m skeptical of all the doom-saying, the dire predictions, the gloom. However, I also can’t help but notice that things are “darker.” There is a mean streak that runs through our country. Something is out-of-kilter.

And then there’s us — the Church. People who love Jesus and claim his name. People who call themselves “Christian.”

Something seems a little out-of-kilter with us, too. We seem to reflect the same mean streak; we appear to have the same fault lines running through us. We are just as torn, ragged, depressed.

This is not a good sign, brothers and sisters. Because at the core of our faith and religious claims, there exists a divine thing called “hope.” To be a Christian means to have a hope deep down inside us which sustains and drives us. We don’t succumb to despair that the world is going to hell in a hand basket, because we know it isn’t. We know — I mean, we truly know with all our mind and strength — that the world belongs to God, and that God is working to bring shalom to this earth.

I’m reminded of Paul’s pointed question to the Corinthians as he observed their loss of hope and faith: “Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?” (II Cor. 13:5)

Jesus Christ IN you? That sounds kind of weird, a little mystical and supernatural. Did Paul mean to say that?

Yes, I think so. It’s not the first time he makes this reference. In Galatians 2:20, Paul claims, “It is no longer I who live, but it is Christ who lives in me.” In Ephesians 3:17, Paul says that he is praying “that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith.” And in Colossians 1:27, Paul speaks of a mystery which he has been commissioned to proclaim; he describes the mystery itself as “Christ in you, the hope of glory.”

This means the point of being a Christian is NOT that we must try harder at being like Jesus, or that we have to adhere to a rigid code of ethics and behavior; rather, the Christian life is one of being filled by Christ’s own presence. We have Jesus within us, closer to us than our breath, closer than our thoughts and prayers. We have God’s own power within, coursing through our veins.

And so in these difficult times, when lies and deception run rampant through all parts of our culture, and there is a thinly-veiled suspicion of violent anger, the people who are called by Jesus’ name will also act and look like Jesus.

So let me echo Paul’s question to all of you:

Do you not realize that Jesus Christ is in you?