But even if you do suffer for doing what is right, you are blessed. Do not fear what they fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defense to anyone who demands from you an account of the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.
I Peter 3:15-16
People are desperately looking for someone who can give them hope, real hope. They are weary of easy answers and disillusioned by a feel-good gospel. They want no more fool’s gold of hollow promises. The addictions, obsessions, and chasing after false-messiahs are symptoms of our world desperately looking for hope. Two thousand years ago the Apostle Paul diagnosed our world’s problem as being “without hope and without God” (Ephesians 2:2). It’s all of this that makes today’s Scripture text so vital for our time; that we be ready to give an “account” of the hope that we have, and to do it with “gentleness and reverence”.
Our world’s desperate search for hope is vividly illustrated in the ancient Greek myth of Pandora’s Box. The myth says that Zeus wanted to punish man for having stolen fire from the gods. As a punishment Zeus created and then dispatched Pandora to earth bearing a beautiful, jeweled box. When Pandora reached earth she opened her box, releasing every kind of evil upon the world. Then Pandora quickly snapped the box shut, trapping inside one last thing: hope. According to the myth, we are living in a world without hope: tragedy without hope of joy, despair without hope of redemption, and endless sorrow without hope of relief.
But it isn’t just the ancients who said we live in a world without hope. Read today’s news headlines! Read today’s novels and go to the theater! In a poll of 800 playwrights, actors, directors and journalists, Waiting for Godot was voted the most significant English language play of the 20th century. This absurdist play begins with two characters placing all their hopes on the coming of a mysterious character named Godot. But they wait endlessly, and in vain, because Godot never comes. The play ends with Vladamir, Estragon, and audience feeling a sense of hopelessness.
Today’s Scripture text is written to Christians whose lives are marked by hope in a hopeless situation. The year is A. D. 64, and believers are being hunted down for merely bearing the name “Christian”. The Emperor Nero is throwing Christians to his lions, and Peter himself will soon be crucified upside down. But an unbelieving world can’t believe what it is seeing! The Christians are living lives marked by hope. People are asking the Christians “to give an account” for the hope that is in them.
Hope has always been a mark of people who follow Jesus. It is a hope in the midst of hopeless situations that an unbelieving world takes note of and talks about. Hope for the Christians is not a “finger cross” or a wishy- washy “I hope so”. Hope has nothing to do with a sunny disposition or trusting to luck that things will turn out okay. Hope for the Christians is what Peter calls in this same letter “a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead” (I Peter 1:3).
Hope is the unshakeable trust in God’s loving purpose for us revealed in Jesus Christ. Hope is not a result of our circumstances, or our best efforts, but is the “fruit” of Christ’s Spirit living within (Galatians 5:22-23). The Puritan preacher Thomas Brooks said well that “Hope allows us to see heaven through the thickest clouds.”
Yes, I saw today’s news headlines! There are still plenty of troubles and heartache ahead, but we aren’t waiting for Godot! We are waiting for God who will come and make everything right! Our Christian hope enables us to see beyond today’s problems to God’s new world where “Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more” (Revelation 21:4).
I want my life to be marked by hope, so that people will see it and ask: “Why are you so hopeful, when things aren’t?” I want to answer them just as Peter instructs: “with gentleness and reverence”.
People are crying for hope, and for people who will gently, lovingly show the way.
Grace and peace, and hope,
photo by dctim1