Saturday 21 January 2012

So what is hope?

Physicist John Polkinghorne writes: "Hope is not a mood but a commitment to action; whatever we hope for we will be prepared to work for; bringing it about as we are able." I find that a really challenging thought. In the first place, for a lot of people "hope" is more like wishful thinking. Even when it is within our power to make change we have little intention of doing so. Thus "hope" becomes something we expect someone/thing outside us to implement on our behalf. So, if I hope to live in a better city but do nothing to move out of my comfort zone or go out of my way, my hope is a wish I want others to deliver on. In other words, hope challenges me to change. Reminds me of the Gandhi quote: "Be the change you want to see."

I hear a lot of people, in a lot of places, talking about hope. I hear a lot of it in the church - hoping for more members, more young people, more children, more influence and impact. But rarely do I see the "hoping ones" doing anything to change themselves or the circumstances to alter the results. The flip side of that is that the "doing ones" only occasionally express hope in that way. More likely they say, "We did A + B + C and we hope it will lead to D". But they're doing something.

For people of faith that says something about our commitment and our prayers. We should not pray, it seems, for what we can do ourselves. Instead, we should seek the grace (strength, courage, insight, etc.) to accomplish what has been laid before us. When we ask God to act, it should be for things for which we can see no possible course of action other than prayer. And even then, we should, in thought and word, leave ourselves open to the possibility of our own change. What we are able to do will vary tremendously based on so many circumstances. But I think we, too often, sell ourselves and our communities short.

So then, the old phrase from Hebrews 11:1 unpacks very differently. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen," calls us to trust that our faithfully undertaken actions (even if that is enduring without despair) will lead to worthy results. What do you think?