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Are We Afraid to Hope?  | Provoketive Magazine
18 Jan 2012

The Author

Greetings from Seattle, where I live with my husband, Tom, and dog, Bonnie. I am a passionate organic gardener and a contemplative activist, believing that our spiritual formation should interweave through all of life and should equip us to engage in the challenges and struggles of our broken and needy world. I am also executive director of Mustard Seed Associates a small not for profit that helps people think about how the world is changing and how they need to change to be more effective in the future. I conduct seminars and workshops on faith and spirituality, Celtic Christian spirituality and Gardening and Spirituality, encouraging participants to recognize the encounters with God and the gospel story that occur in every aspect of life.


Are We Afraid to Hope?
bird of hope

A few weeks ago I posted this prayer on Facebook:

‎”Jesus may we see in you the ways of life,
May we love justice, show mercy, practice generosity,
And love our neighbours as we do ourselves.”

Someone called these lofty but admirable goals.  On a similar post several months ago someone else called it admirable idealism and another commented – impossible.  What kind of hope fills our lives How sad when God’s hope for a world made new are viewed in this way.

Love of neighbour, generosity, mercy and justice are at the heart of the gospel and the backbone of the commands that Jesus invites us to live by.  They are the fabric that is meant to shape our lives. At least that is what we tell people or pretend to believe, but underneath do we really think that they are unattainable idealism? Have we lost hope in what God plans to accomplish?

How we live is driven by who we are and what we believe.  Asking people to love their neighbours and forgive their enemies is pointless unless we first enable them to confront their inner disbelief in the attainability of these goals.  Sure we will never love our neighbours as well as we should and forgiving enemies can be very, very hard but if don’t believe it is possible we will never move an inch towards this seemingly unattainable goal.

One of my great role models in this struggle is the apostle John His story is one of the greatest stories of hope in the Bible. We first meet in Mark 3:17 as one of the Sons of Thunder.  I suspect he must have had a pretty fiery temper to be given that name. By the end of the New Testament he known as the Apostle of love.

What an incredible transformation of heart, spirit and life that must have taken place.  And I don’t think that it is surprising that we also hear him called “the disciple that Jesus loved” (John 21: 20).  The closer we walk with Jesus, the more intimately we enter into the love of his presence, the more possibility we have of being transformed and the more possibility we have of loving justice, showing mercy, practicing generosity and loving our neighbours as we do ourselves.

So what do you think?  Is the hope we have in Jesus message attainable idealism or is it a powerful vision of hope and promise for a world transformed and a people reborn?

[This post is part of the Synchroblog on Hope.  For a full list of participants and posts, go here.]

  1. I can understand people’s pessimism and doubt that those ideals can be realized on a global scale in this age, but they are certainly central to the high calling of the Gospel. People will be won over if they see it in action, rather than simply here about it.

  2. The more we walk and talk with Jesus, the more we become like him. I believe that’s something Christ does IN us, resulting in the transformation of our hearts. But it’s still our choice to live that out in our actions. If all I do is rant and rave about injustice, but fail to extend mercy to others, I’m simply a “noisy gong” as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 13:1. But when are actions match our words, it can make a difference in someone else’s life who then might show mercy to another person. I know that when I treat other people like I want to be treated, it has the potential of changing the world one person at a time. And if nothing else, it changes my world.
    I’ve known cynics who refused to vote or volunteer in a soup kitchen because, “What difference does it make?” Then someone did a random act of kindness for them that made their day, and I saw a spark of hope light their hearts that, just maybe, being generous DOES matter. Then they passed that spark on to someone else.
    I worked in the drive-through window at a Starbucks for eight years. Several times a week, a customer would pull up and say, “I’d like to pay for the car behind me.” When the next car came to the window, I always said, “You have just been visited by the Coffee Fairy. The person in front of you paid for your order just to do something nice for you. You can repay them by doing something kind for someone else today.” Reactions ranged between shock and tears. And frequently they said, “Well, I want to pay for the car behind me.” One time that first act of generousity was passed from person to person eight cars in a row.
    Just one act of love, justice and kindness at a time CAN change our world.

    • Joy, I love the story you share here. Simple acts of kindness can bring hope in the strangest places. I feel sorry for people who see Jesus’ vision as unattainable idealism. They are probably the ones who would break the kindness cycle by not paying for someone else’s coffee.

      • Yes, but there is still hope for them that one day the miracle will happen for them. I’ve seem some amazing transformations, and most we never see. I bet many people who didn’t pay for the next guy in line emptied someone else’s waste basket along with their own at work that day.

  3. Your right. I have been amazed too by what God can do. I have just been reading Things Hidden: Scripture as Spirituality by Richard Rohr and he talks about how God delights in transforming death into life and calling into being that which does not yet exist.

    • We have tandem thoughts on this, Christine. Here’s a quote from an article I finish writing this afternoon:

      “How important it is for us to act when our hearts are stirred with compassion, rather than just sit on the sidelines and think about it. Each of us has a unique place in God’s universe. We are made in His/Her image to fulfill a special part for the redemption of us all. God loved us into being, and when we pass that love along to someone else, we are literally the hands, feet and heart of Jesus and have the transformational power to change someone’s life for the better. Just like God did for us. Just like someone in our lifetime did for us.”

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