The thing in which we have our hope will determine our behavior. When an entrepreneur places her hope in the free market, she will work hard and practice delayed gratification to build her business, which will then provide her with a comfortable financial life. When a young man places his hope in a charismatic political candidate, he will volunteer and support and try to convince others to join in, expecting that this candidate can help create a political environment that makes life better. When a person puts their hope in good health, they carefully watch their diet and incorporate regular exercise into their routine, expecting that they will have a better quality of life.
This is the mindset behind the first letter that Peter writes to the Christians in the churches spread throughout modern-day Turkey. In it, he writes “In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade.” These people were facing trials and persecution, making their everyday lives difficult, yet Peter wanted to remind them that hope did not lie in political stability or economic comfort or even long and healthy lives. Instead, their hope is in the inheritance that they share with Jesus, an eternal inheritance kept by God in heaven so that it can never be taken away. Because their hope was in Jesus, their behavior on earth needed to reflect their hope, which meant that they needed to submit to those in authority while seeking to love others and act with mercy and grace. If they were to face persecution, then it was to be because of their faith, and not because they acted in some unlawful manner that warranted punishment.
For those of us who are citizens of modern-day America, our lives are so comfortable that it is difficult to truly place our hope in something beyond what we currently experience. We are all essentially the rich man who wanted to get into heaven but, when told by Jesus that he must first sell everything that he has and give it to the poor, ultimately goes away sad because he knows he cannot do that. Jesus is very clear that we cannot serve two masters, but we would rather fight to preserve what we have in our lives today than lay down our lives, take up our crosses, and follow Christ. Our hope instead lies in capitalism and the Constitution, which means that we will refuse to love our neighbors as ourselves if our neighbors vote for someone else or have a different idea of justice than we do.
For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world, but lose his soul? Will you put your hope in something that is fleeting and will soon pass away, or will you put your hope in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, into an inheritance that will never perish, spoil or fade? You cannot have it both ways, and where you place your hope will be clearly seen by your behavior. If you are a citizen of God’s kingdom, then act that way and let go of the materialism and politics that keep you from loving God and loving your neighbor as yourself. Jesus would have it no other way.
Peace and blessings – Pastor Aaron