Soon the forest of Lebanon
will become a field with crops,
thick as a forest.
The deaf will be able to hear
whatever is read to them;
the blind will be freed
from a life of darkness.
The poor and the needy
will celebrate and shout
because of the Lord,
the holy God of Israel.
All who are cruel and arrogant
will be gone forever.
Those who live by crime
together with everyone
who tells lies in court
and keeps innocent people
from getting a fair trial.
The Lord who rescued Abraham
has this to say
about Jacob’s descendants:
“They will no longer
be ashamed and disgraced.
When they see how great
I have made their nation,
they will praise and honor me,
the holy God of Israel.
Everyone who is confused
and all who have complained
will obey my teaching.” (Contemporary English Version)
There are better days ahead. And it is this hope which is to help sustain us in present – because the current reality for many people is hard and unforgiving. Malevolent and heartless people exist, and they wreak physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual havoc on those around them.
When in the throes of difficulty, it is good to be reminded that basic human kindness will once again be exalted and valued. Yet, meanwhile, we must endure the evil of dehumanizing behavior. Until then, we must do our best to connect heaven and earth by rehumanizing every space and place within our sphere on influence. We are to be agents of hope for ourselves and for others.
Every person (and I do mean every person) on planet earth is created in the image and likeness of God. Each individual human being is worthy of basic human kindness and deserving of respect.
Unfortunately, people do and say terrible things every day. Yet this never means that God’s image has left or has taken a vacation, or that someone deserves a pejorative label which stigmatizes and ostracizes them from the human family.
For the Christian, the supreme ethic of life is love. We hold to the Great Commandment: Love God and neighbor; all other commands of Holy Scripture hang on these two bedrock commands, upheld by Jesus himself.
Therefore we must all ask ourselves if we are living our lives and loving others in this world as intended by our Creator and Redeemer. Hate speech, unsafe working conditions, political gerrymandering, apathy toward another’s injustice, a lack of empathy, and vilifying particular people groups are just a few examples of dehumanizing behavior.
If ever we move down the path of claiming to know whom God judges or ought to judge, then we have gone the way of extreme hubris and are germinating the seeds of a future holocaust of killing, not a future hope of peace and goodness.
There is no biblical precedent or place to dehumanize another person or group of people, period. Instead, we must actively build relationships with a broad spectrum of groups and individuals – especially with the ones we least know and understand.
The injustice of dehumanization will not always be with us. Confusion and complaints will give way to clarity, understanding, humility, and obedience. Darkness and deafness, poverty and petulance shall melt away. In its place, love and grace will forever be ensconced upon a new earth, free from crime and shame. Hope will be realized.
Our future hope is a living hope.
We typically use the term “hope” in the wishful thinking sort of way. That’s because we aren’t quite sure if things will shake-out like we want. Biblical hope is not wishful thinking but a confident expectation that knows what is coming.
Hope is like anticipating the seasons. In the dead of winter when it’s bitter cold with little sunshine, we hopefor Spring. It’s not wishful thinking. We know it’s coming. It might come in early March, maybe in late April. But it’s coming, and you can bet the farm on it. The trees will bud, the grass will turn green, and the temps will warm.
Hope in the Bible is a sure thing. Because of the person and work of Jesus Christ, there is hope, the confident expectation that deliverance from sin, death, and hell will be fully realized.
Hope, inheritance, and salvation are all words that describe nearly the same thing. They all point to Jesus. We are saved from the slavery of sin through the cross and resurrection of Christ. We are delivered into an inheritance which can never perish, spoil, or fade. But an inheritance isn’t activated until death. Someday, when this present life of earthly brokenness is over, we have the hope, the confident expectation, of a permanent inheritance with Jesus forever. (1 Peter 1:3-9)
Outwardly, we suffer in all kinds of earthly grief from others who don’t understand us. Inwardly, we have the silent pain and terrible wrestling of wanting to forgive but desiring revenge; of seeking to be gracious but seething with anger; of looking to express kind words but having hate speech blurt out instead.
But it won’t always be this way. We have a future living hope. In this season of Advent, we are reminded that God shall break into this fallen world with all of its dehumanizing behaviors and hate speech. The hopes and fears of all the years are met in a humble feeding trough, in a little baby.
Hope is as real as anything you’ll ever know this side of heaven. You might not always find what you’re looking for in this life; but in the next life, you can find the life that is truly life. For Jesus Christ is our hope.
God of hope, we seek you. During this holy season of Advent, help us to see you in all whom we encounter. We seek you in the crude manger, a child born to save the world. May your hope be a comfort to all who long for justice; and may that hope overflow in our hearts and grace our lips so that we might reflect your hope for all the world. Amen.