Have you stopped watching the news yet? With the constant stream of reports about rising oil and food prices, xenophobic violence and human rights abuses, global warming and civil wars, you can be forgiven if you have! But, as difficult as it can be to hear these stories, as people of faith we cannot allow ourselves the luxury of cynicism or despair. We are called to be a different voice in all the negative noise.
Unfortunately, the voice of faith is all too often heard as either fantasy or fatalism. On the one hand, we may be tempted to offer vague platitudes of reassurance: Don’t worry. It’s all in God’s hand. Everything will work out in the end. As true as this may be, it comes across as denial, leading others to wish we would just get real. On the other hand, believers have sometimes been seen as jubilantly expectant in the face of such events, confirming them as “signs of the end” as we sit back and wait for Jesus to return. Neither response offers help or hope to the world.
But, help and hope is exactly what Jesus is about. In a world of oppression, corruption and wide chasms between rich and poor, Jesus came. While the people of his time faced their crises with a variety of responses – ranging from disengagement and retreat to violent resistance of expedient compromises – Jesus proclaimed a new, all-embracing, radically transformational vision and called his followers to respond out of this. That call has not changed.
The vision of Jesus is about life – formed, informed and transformed by God’s values and God’s purpose. Life that cannot be overcome by death or evil and that can bring light and possibility into the darkest and most hopeless situations. This vision is preached in the parables – and it is a vision that calls followers of Christ into action.
So, what can we do to live this vision in a world of crisis and fear? We can hope – not in fatalism or fantasy, but in the confidence that small attitudes and actions build into significant movements for change. Hope leads us to remember what we have, not grumble over what we don’t. Hope calls us to speak words of life and possibility, instead of falling into the rhetoric of despair. Hope requires us to resist the temptation to hide in safe isolation from the struggles of the world. Hope challenges us to share, to join hands, to serve and to bless in any and every way we can, no matter how small, and to refuse to hoard, to reject, to self-protect and to curse.
No matter what our leaders may do or fail to do, no matter what public opinion may offer as truth or wisdom, no matter how fear may seek to paralyse us, the call of Christ rings out above it all. It’s a call to be prisoners of hope, and agents of salvation. The challenge of hope is never easy, but the alternative is unthinkable. And if ever the world needed it, the time is now for those who are called by his name to take up their crosses and follow Jesus.