In this series, we have examined the role hope plays as we find ways to understand, to plan, to respond and to solve the complexities of this pandemic.
Some annually face tornadoes, hurricanes and typhoons. You know the power of nature and you’ve learned to prepare and respond.
However, this virus, sweeping the globe, is creating havoc, anxiety and disorientation such as I have never known.
What I find remarkable — though not that surprising — is the response of Christians to both understand and to move into action to help. It is here that the hope which Jesus Christ inspires, finds its practical ways into our lives.
Let me put hope in its biblical context. Hope is part of the biblical triad of faith, hope and love.
• Love is considering others first, making their issues foremost.
• Faith is of the will. It calls me to choose to risk, to do, based on my values.
• Hope is seeing what is, informed by what is true about God and his plan.
These three Christian impulses and disciplines hugely factor into how we respond to this crisis and others.
Jesus, in one of many famous stories, points out what he considers not only crucial for what it means to be his follower, but what he mandates.
A bright and zealous lawyer asked Jesus how he could get to heaven. Jesus asked him what the Old Testament Scriptures said. The lawyer replied: to love God and neighbor and then asks Jesus, so who is my neighbor, to which Jesus tells him the story we know as the Good Samaritan.
The road in this story joins two cities, Jerusalem and Jericho, a very dangerous road, about 18 miles long. It wound up through mountains and was a perfect place to commit crime. Because many priests and their assistants lived in Jericho and worked in Jerusalem, every few weeks they would take this road.
And sure enough, on that road, a man is robbed and left for dead. A priest comes by and ignores the unconscious man. A Levite, a priest’s assistant does the same. Surprise of surprises, a Samaritan – hated and despised for historical, political and theological reasons – is the good guy. He stops, looks after the man and takes him to where he can find care.
Jesus then asks the lawyer, so who is the neighbor? Embarrassed and flummoxed he replies, “the one who had mercy.”
When we speak of hope, it is the Christians lens that defines and sharpens what we see. Hope is to see what might be, beyond what is.
Hope is linked into this triad of love, faith and hope. One works when the other two are in sync. But we are stigmatized when one is detached from the other. Without hope, faith and love are bereft of the power that the three synergistically create.
The Gospel is about loving God and loving neighbor – the two great calls of Christ.
Let’s drop that story into this crisis, this moment of global trauma and fear. What is neighbor to us? In these times of uncertainty, people pray with fervency, calling out to the God they believe exists. There is a natural instinct during this time to say we believe and love God.
Who then is my neighbor? While being home-bound creates its own limitations, we can be creative in looking out for others.
In a very real sense, this is a time in which the church of Jesus Christ is being tested.
Let me suggest three questions we may want to ask of ourselves:
1. Is hope ruling my life and choices?
2. Is my neighbor a factor in what I do?
3. In my Christian community, are we reflecting the God we love and serve?
I was raised in Saskatchewan, a province in western Canada. Our church community had a summer camp and across the platform of our meeting hall was a banner which read; By this shall all people know you are my disciples if you love each other.”
Hope is the anchor to my faith.
Faith is the action plan that moves me forward.
Love is the actual means by which we show another that God cares for you, and because he does, I do too.
The Apostle Paul, writing Christians in Thessaloniki:
“[M]ay the Master pour on the love so it fills your lives and splashes over on everyone around you, just as it does from us to you. May you be infused with strength and purity, filled with confidence in the presence of God our Father when our Master Jesus arrives with all his followers.” 1 Thes 3:11-13 The Message
Hope in Crisis #5
Brian C. Stiller, Global Ambassador
The World Evangelical Alliance