Hope is a word so commonly thrown around in our vocabulary today. Yet there is such a distinct difference between the hope expressed by the world, and the hope defined by the Bible. How do we speak of hope in our Christian communities? Is our personal understanding of hope shaped by the society around us, or by the Scriptures?
In our Christian communities, we can easily fall into the trap of ‘hoping that someone gets well soon’, or ‘hoping someone finds a job’, or even ‘hoping that someone might become a Christian’. What is the basis for that hope? If we miss the hope of the Bible, the hope that is in the gospel, then all our ‘hoping’ is futile.
So as we live in this, a rather anti-Christian world, how do we let Christ-centred language infiltrate our speech, particularly within our Christian small groups? We can turn to 1 Peter for the challenge.
Peter is writing to Christians scattered throughout Asia Minor, living in an anti-Christian society as “foreigners and exiles” (1 Peter 2:11). Peter begins the body of his letter with
“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.” (1:3).
Peter is seeking to equip these suffering Christians with the power of hope. The power of living hope!
What is this living hope? It’s vastly different from the way the world defines hope- a desire for something good in the future (Oxford Dictionary). A desire that is uncertain until it comes to fruition. Peter writes in 1:13
“set your hope on the grace to be brought to you when Jesus Christ is revealed at his coming.”
It is not an uncertain desire, but rather an assured confidence of all the NT writers, that Jesus is coming again, bringing grace for all his people. Yet, this hope is “living”, fruitful, and active. Therefore, Christian hope is a confidence that God will do good for his people in the future, and this hope has the power to change the way we live.
So how should a Biblical knowledge of hope shape our speech? Firstly, we should personally avoid using hope in the shallow, worldly sense. When we are discussing temporary and earthly things such as health and work in our Christian small groups, a better and more valuable response would be for us to point our group to “cast all [our] anxiety on him [God] because he cares for [us]” (5:7). We need to confess our daily dependence upon Him in prayer, as we live on this earth, facing trials testing our faith (1:6-7). Secondly, as we turn to God in each of these moments, this will strengthen our hope which must be founded on Christ’s resurrection (1:3), and in view of His return (1:12) – “But rejoice in as much as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed” (4:13). So when we speak of hope, we are not speaking of an uncertain desire for the future, but of the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and his certain return to bring us into our inheritance (1:4).