I want to ask you to take a minute with me to pause and reflect on this question: where do you put your hope?
(Are you taking a minute?)
… Good job. This question is one of great interest to me. Some of us find our hope in sports teams, some of us in friendships, or relationships, and some of us in money, but I hope that most, if not all, of you reading this thought of Jesus Christ when posed with this question.
Hope is a very interesting concept. We can’t necessarily weigh it, it is not tangible, and we can’t touch it or smell it or taste it. But we all know when hope is there. It is almost like we were made with a 6th sense that enables us to hope. Something that is intriguing to me is the way that our different senses interact and work with each other. If we plug our nose then we don’t taste things right or we can’t even taste at all, if someone is blind or even when we close our eyes our other senses grow in awareness. Even when all the senses are working they do a great deal to help the others out; we hear something behind us and turn to look and catch a glimpse out of our peripheral vision without even taking a second to think about it. Not only are our senses heightened at the loss of another but they are made stronger by the others.
This brings me back to hope. Do we hope in what is tangible? Sometimes, but that is one of the beauties of hope; it doesn’t take a tangible thing for us to have it. However, the tangible things around us do play a huge factor in our coming to have hope. We hope because of what we have seen, what we have heard, and what we have felt. I hope because when I look for truth, and listen for answers, and dig deep into my feelings only one thing remains. Jesus Christ! He is truth; we don’t always remember this – I know I forget it way too often – but we are always seeking it. Those things that you thought about when answering the question about what you hope for – while not necessarily bad things – all fall extremely short except for Jesus.
We use the word “love” for almost everything: we love our hat, and we love our moms. We love our shoes and we love our girlfriends. We are a species that is all about love, we are crying out for it, in the songs we listen to, the books we read, and the shows we watch. We are searching for love. Where does the Bible say love is found? The better question is, who does the Bible say love is? The answer? God. We were created to have hope, and created with a longing for love, and only when our hope is found in the true love of Jesus Christ, will we really have peace. This doesn’t mean that all the problems in our lives will be fixed; rather we are told our lives will most likely be harder. What it does mean is that we are no longer defined by the clutter and the craziness of the things that we say we love and hope in – the things that distract us from Jesus – but rather, we are defined by the fact that we are loved by God and made alive in Christ. Let’s work and fight to live into that hope together.
I’ve already failed on my most common New Year’s Resolution: to be more disciplined. I mean, it’s January 19 and I’m just now rolling around to really thinking about New Year’s Resolutions…talk about lack of discipline.
Perhaps a good thing, as I’m once again realizing that this resolution simply does not engage me emotionally; it doesn’t engage “my emotional elephant” in the language of Dan & Chip Heath in their recent best-seller Switch.
One of our interns, Kevin Petermeyer, gave a great talk at the Inn (1/17/12 on the audio player) with a simple message reminding us that we are not intended to earn God’s love as much as we are intended to respond to the reality of God’s love for us. Love engages (and challenges) me a lot more than discipline.
So I find myself with two resolutions as I springboard from Kev’s reflections on the Good Samaritan. First, quite simply, my resolution is to LOVE MORE. This is one of the foundational tasks of Christian discipleship, “Love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and love your neighbor as your love yourself.” (Mark 12) My second resolution, and no doubt related, is to give people the benefit of the doubt. When I think of Jesus – fully God and fully human – and his interaction with the Samaritan woman, Jesus responds out of common humanity. His response gets past ethnic, gender and religious differences. In short, Jesus gives her the benefit of the doubt as he speaks the truth to her. It is out of that human compassion that Jesus demonstrates love and the Samaritan woman’s whole village discovers a loving God. In 2012, I want to do likewise. I want to give my neighbors, friends, my kids, my wife, and most notably, my enemies and the people that annoy me the benefit of the doubt in the same way.
So, here I am saying, quite simply, I want to love more in 2012 knowing that I need to believe more that God’s love for me, and those I want to give the benefit of the doubt to, is in fact, real.
Ryan Church, UMin Director