Reflections on HopeReflections on Hope

 

In French there are two words for “hope” (elpis in Greek); one means to be habitually hopeful, and the other is stronger, “hoping against hope”, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 4:18. Christian hope draws its strength from our God who is involved in human history, to the point of being incarnate in history. It is a hope that calls us to see in every person the face of Christ, as the best in each of us.

I am convinced that Europe, its peoples and its leaders, would gain by rediscovering and nurturing the gift of hope, to restore a constructive dynamic in ourselves.

-Within our churches, hope helps us to go beyond our fears as we confront secularization, the loss of reference points, the difficulties in passing on our faith to the next generation. It helps us develop confidence, which is vital for enhancing the potential of our young people and teaching them responsibility. It works within multicultural communities to encourage mutual enrichment among cultures.

-In working for unity among the churches, it is hope that takes us beyond our institutional or personal reluctance. Hope is at work in the sharing of daily life in interconfessional marriages, in actions of solidarity between churches, in informal conversations and formal theological dialogues. It gives us confidence to build together, although in daily life our efforts seem far from perfect. Hope invites us to work together to make the churches’ mission and witness credible again.

-Hope has a role to play in building European society, whether in developing new structures or new ways of thinking. It speaks to us today of the future, a common future, in Europe and in the midst of globalization. It helps us imagine ourselves in that future. Hope frees us from our walls within which we feel safe but which close us in; it lets us go beyond the mistrust which freezes each of us in our position.

-Hope must be at the centre of our involvement in globalization and in finding ways of regulating it. Working for greater justice must be more than words, and not be confined to our “Fortress Europe”, nor should it exclude migrants. Working for justice calls us to develop the idea of justice that restores. It is hope that makes the difference between retribution, which only punishes wrong-doing, and justice that restores, seeking to revive human beings, to lift them up as well as correct them. Hope draws strength from faith, to see human beings beyond the reality of evil and of sin; it has the power to enrich, to revive, to enliven.

Our European societies have tasted wealth and we are afraid of losing it. Our social models are based on economic growth, profits and productivity. But today as we plan for the future, we must learn to lose again; learn to lose, the better to protect the planet; learn to lose, the better to share with others, to be enriched in new ways. Our identity as Christians is not based on our economic productivity, what we have earned or how we have performed. God is the foundation of our identity. So we must set the example for our societies; we must be leaders in decreasing wealth, in reducing our use of energy, and increase in sharing instead. Our identity is not at stake in how well we perform. The widow of Zarephath (1 Kings 17) and the stories of sharing of bread in the Gospels show that sharing brings much more to everyone than does keeping to oneself and protecting the little one has. They also show that God blesses this sharing.

Hope can help us return to a different relationship with space, with time, and with other people; for example, by finding enjoyment in the present moment rather than in consumerism, enjoying an encounter rather than retreating into mistrust, enjoying sharing what one has rather than hiding it away safely.

Through faith, through hope, we are called to watch and wait when the world seems too dark to us. The theological idea of hope today calls us, as Christians, to be more than pragmatic, to believe more than what is believable, to create, together, a future for our world and a common destiny for Europe.

 

Claire Sixt Gateuille,
French Reformed Church