May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope. — Romans 15:13, RSVCE
We had our weekly Bible study at the church last night, and we managed to finish our study of Revelation. I love studying the Revelation to John, though many people are put off by its intense and foreign metaphors and imagery. It took me a long time to crack it open and appreciate the depth and meaning behind each passage, and the most important lesson I learned from Revelation, which translates to the entire Bible, is to be careful not to miss the forest for the trees.
We as 21st Century humans tend to get lost in the details. With Revelation, all of the gore, death, plagues, and judgments snag onto us, and we end up so worried about the who’s, what’s, and when’s that we forget what the letter was designed to convey. By the same token, while I may post a lot of stuff about what it means to think, act, and live according to the faith, it can sometimes be easy for me or my readers to forget the underlying truth that serves as the foundation of the Scriptures and traditions of the Church.
Paul sums this truth up wonderfully in his letter to the Romans when he offers up the short blessing at the top of this post. For all his theological explorations, moral exhortations, and apologetic explanations, Paul brings his readers back to center by invoking a blessing from God that perfectly describes the intent of the entire Gospel. God seeks to give us “joy and peace in believing,” that through our Christian faith we might receive the presence of the Holy Spirit which fuels us with real, substantive hope.
Faith in Christ is not designed to fill you with guilt or a sense of responsibility for solving all of the world’s problems. It’s true, Christian religion should produce works in us that help channel God’s grace to others and transform the world for the better. We should be made humble enough to recognize our sinful nature, calling upon God to restore to us the Divine image He always meant for us to have. The purpose of all of this, however, is to provide believers with a sense of joy and peace.
We are to be filled with joy knowing that we are all fearfully and wonderfully made. Each of us is here on purpose, and we are redeemed by the love of a God in Whose eyes we are worth dying for. A sense of peace should fill us at the knowledge that God has already overcome the negative powers of this world, and they are just slow to catch on. We no longer have to stand in the fear of death which makes us act sinfully. Rather, we are free to recklessly love each other as Christ did for us.
Finally, there is hope. You may have noticed that I added the words “real” and “substantive” to the word “hope” earlier, and this is because we have had hope peddled to us in very shallow and insulting ways for a long time. We’ve been promised health, security, and happiness if we just looked a certain way, feared certain people, or had a certain amount of guns. False gospels preach that God will always be on our side if we but “plant that thousand dollar seed” in some scoundrel’s televised ministry. All of this is garbage, and a mockery of what hope actually is.
Real hope is something that fuels your life. It takes root in your soul and is unshakable. It enables you to think, speak, and act in ways you never thought you could. Hope is the belief that what we see is not the end, and that a better reality is coming and is already here.
I plan to write more stuff that gets into the “nitty-gritty.” After all, details are fairly important. What’s more important, however, is that we remember the point of it all. God’s will is that you and I live our lives with true joy and peace, and that our faith in Him might spark hope in us. This hope is rooted in our identity as beloved children of God, the love of that God that defeated the grave, and the understanding that the best is yet to come.
Peace be with you!