Christians are often a wildly pessimistic lot. Anyone who knows much about the Bible would find that kind of strange, I would imagine. How could those who profess faith in a God of promise, in a God who declares, “Behold I make all things new,” and “All things are possible with God,” and who believe that God loves the world, think so little of the world?
Many Christians believe that world is going to hell in a handbag, which means that it is going to hell quickly and easily, like carrying a handbag. They speak of destruction and judgment for all people who do not believe like them. Then they do not do much for the world, because they see no purpose in it.
It is no wonder the prophets of atheism have been declaring the death of the church. It is no wonder those same prophets appear right as religious affiliations decline. And yet there is a fascinating bit of information about those who claim no religious affiliation. While some are indeed atheists, many are not, and neither are they agnostic, they simply have no need to go church. And really who can blame them? As I have admitted we are a wildly pessimistic lot, and to be so pessimistic suggests that perhaps we do not believe in God.
There I said it, I was afraid to, but it is written down now and I am going to let it stand. Maybe Christians do not believe in God.
I am not saying we do not believe in something. We believe in our doctrines, in our one-sided interpretations of Scripture, in the god we can box up and fit to suit our desires. But the God of those Scriptures, now that is harder to believe in. The God who told Abraham, “I am going to make you great,”and Abraham believed him even when he saw no evidence of that at all, that God is hard to believe in. The God who made a promise to Isaac, and Jacob, and said, “you will be a blessing to the nations,” that God is hard to believe in. The God who said through prophets, “I care about how you treat each other, I care about how the poor and needy are dealt with, I care about this world in all its fleshiness,” that God is hard to believe in. The God who took the time, at the right time, to become flesh and dwell among us, that God is hard to believe in. The God who says, “I love the world and I will save it,” well that God is hard to believe in, because look around.
So we Christians have decided to focus on the pie in the sky and simply judge the trip to hell in that handbag. We talk a lot about God loving us, but to talk about loving God, maybe we need to do that some more. To love God means to love the world. To have hope in God is to have hope for the salvation of the world. Yes there will be the fall of nations. Yes there will be the demise of societies. Yes the world will change and many will cry out in despair.
But as a Christian who knows that Sunday always comes I will not lose hope. As a Christian who still sings of God having the whole world in those divine hands I will not lose hope. As a Christian who believes that Christ alone is King I will not lose hope. As a Christian who knows I am blessed and favored because with me is the light that the darkness cannot overcome, I will not lose hope.
Instead when the days appear dreary and the work moves slowly I will sing my thanksgiving. When the trials are many and the temptations get to me I will still sing my thanksgiving. As long as there is goodness to be done, as long as one person can benefit from the words of my mouth and the work of my hands, as long as the crown of life is still offered to the one who overcomes I will sing my thanksgiving and believe that hope for the world still has a place in the church.