Jesus – Hope for the World declares the banner outside the church near where I live. I can’t help but wonder about the naivety of the people who came up with the slogan and what it means. What are the possibilities?
‘Peace on Earth, goodwill to all men’ (and maybe women)? If so, the world isn’t showing much of either, certainly none that can be attributed to Jesus and his fractured, fractious and frequently intolerant church.
How about inner peace then, even though that’s a long way from ‘hope for the world.‘ How many Christians exemplify this particular fruit of Spirit? Is this, in the end, all that Jesus offers: the hope of a nice fuzzy feeling inside? Of course, peace of mind can be spirit-generate, though personally I prefer wine.
Hope of reconciliation with God then. Only if you believe in God in the first place, not to mention ‘sin‘, human sacrifice and magic. If this is the kind of hope Jesus represents, then really, what good is it?
Possibly the hope of which the banner speaks is the hope the earliest Christians had, of Jesus coming back real soon to slaughter his enemies and set up the Kingdom with, naturally, themselves at the top of the pile? Hasn’t Jesus had two thousand years to deliver this hoped for outcome? An idea well past its sell-by date, the Kingdom of God on Earth isn’t ever going to materialise, however much ‘hope’ people have.
Maybe, then, it’s a hope of eternal life. The gospel writers have Jesus make such a preposterous offer (e.g. John 10:27-28). If this is what Christians are hoping for they are sadly deluded, and, as Paul puts it, the most pitiable of all people (1 Cor 15:19). No human being outside of myth and comic books has ever lived forever. None ever will.
Hope of heaven? See above. Besides, the Bible really doesn’t offer a place in heaven to anyone. That’s a much later development. It’s a waste of this one and only life to live in the vain hope of something better after death.
Maybe the hope referred to is hope in hope itself. How futile would that be? Hope is no substitute for food for the hungry, shelter for the destitute, treatment for the sick.
When I go to the carol service at the church next weekend, I’m confident it will be made clear just what sort of hope Jesus offers the world. If not, I’ll be sure to ask. I’ll let you know.