Hope… A 4 Letter Word

H.U.E PodcastRedeeming the Race Narrative

Heal. Unite. Engage. – Cultivating transformative unity in our homes, circles of influence and churches through informed, Christ-centered, cross-cultural perspectives and actionable faith.

 

H-O-P-E… A 4 Letter Word

HOPE is a four-letter word. It’s risqué and can be spoken with derision or disgust. The difference is that the definition of HOPE is not crude. Webster’s dictionary defines HOPE as a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.  If you study the biblical definition of HOPE the meaning is even more dynamic. There are two parts to the definition:

 

  1. The essence or very nature of a promise (Acts 26:6); An act/action (Acts 26:7); Requires belief in potential or promise (Romans 4:18); Expectancy (Acts 28:20); Produced by character (Romans 5:4); Deliverance (Romans 8:20)
  2. Reliant/based on God (Acts 24:15), Does not disappoint because of the love of God in our hearts through the Holy Spirit (Romans 5:5); Wait for it through the Spirit, by faith (Galatians 5:5)

 

 

If HOPE is defined by these two parts then why do we ever develop a love/hate relationship with the word? When I heard about the latest police shooting of an African – American, particularly Philando Castile, I was done with hope. I was bitter. I was finished with the Church and all her good intentions – especially with my white brothers and sisters.

 

You see, when all the events around race had been tearing our nation apart I saw an overwhelming number of responses from BIPOC friends. But in contrast, the vast majority of white friends on my Facebook feed or in personal conversations were painfully quiet, it was like the absence of even white noise – just still.

 

I raged to God and asked, “What’s the point of starting a podcast”? What’s the point of meaningful, constructive conversations when sincere Christians I know, respect, admire, and love are so oblivious or disengaged? The level of disengagement made me question my conviction, what I saw with my own eyes. I thought well maybe things aren’t that bad, or maybe it isn’t wrong, or maybe it isn’t injustice, because if it was injustice surely my friends would say something. I was beyond weary of Christian clichés to address or more accurately dismiss the issues and their impact. Scriptures that were given to comfort felt more like placation. The theology of: “focus on God, it’s ok, it will get better, don’t be mired down by what’s not good, you should always be up and encouraged in the Lord” was disheartening.

 

Maybe you’re coming from a different perspective, where the police shootings, BLM protests, the KKK Charlottesville rally and other issues have come as a shock in their existence and intensity. You had no idea things were so bad and now it seems they can only get worse. Your HOPE has been blindsided.

 

Or maybe you’re the turtle in the shell. Regardless of how these events have impacted you or loved ones you simply can’t engage on any level. There’s no time, energy, or emotion that you have to give, so your HOPE is more of a wish than a belief.

 

Why Does Faith Matter?

But we are called to HOPE. Not because it is good, or the right thing to do, or even a practical way to live peaceably as a society. We are called to HOPE because we know God. HOPE is contingent on the power and love of God. I know it sounds like another cliché when I say it like that, but here’s why I think HOPE that depends on God makes a difference. Here’s how I answer the question: why does faith matter?

 

There is nothing significant about addressing the concept of reconciliation, the reality of white supremacy, and the practice of discrimination through the Christian world lens. The Christian is no different from a person who wants to do good, encourage others to do the right thing, and create change – outside of God. In fact, you could argue that more impactful, practical solutions are offered by non-faith based initiatives through regulations, policies, and laws than through the prayers of good intention that are offered by many Christians. This doesn’t mean that I don’t understand, believe, and know the power of prayer, but those “good intention prayers” ironically (given the power of prayer) are rarely coupled with effective action.

 

At the same time, all of the policies, regulations and laws are not inherently sustainable. They don’t change hearts. They can be reversed. You can look at society and our nation’s laws today and see that. There is no magic bullet in mentoring inner-city youth, or supporting organizations that are fighting systemic poverty, or even in engaging and listening to different perspectives. None of those actions will make us stop holding on to advantages and privileges we are and are not aware of. There is no three-step process that will allow us to completely forgive and trust others, whether they have asked for it or not. There is no salve placed on our eyes that will immediately reveal all of the connotations and complexities that are a part of another person’s experience so we’re inspired to sacrifice our rights and comfort for theirs.

This is why faith is critical. Because we as believers have THE resource to create transformative, sustainable unity – HOPE based on God and in God. As the church we have the calling and capacity to lead not because we know the gospel or even because we’ve responded with affirmation to it. We have the calling and capacity to lead because we’ve given God full permission to shake us to our very core and give substance, evidence, and accountability to our beliefs so we can live like Jesus. Our HOPE for that transformation is reliant on God so we can trust that it will actually happen.

 

What Next?

Instead of catching up with whatever initiative and policy society creates to address the ethnic and historical divisions in our society and putting a Christian twist to it, I want to see the Church lead. To have the leaders and influencers of nations come to us and say, “How do you do it? How do you love and trust each other to the point of sacrifice?”

 

Let me give a real-life example of a situation that has recently given me HOPE. I have a friend who posted on Facebook regarding white evangelicalism and some of the discussions that have been going on recently from leaders within the Christian domain. She had several people from her church respond with interest, surprise, and sincere lack of knowledge about the topic. From these responses she felt led to invite those who were interested to her home for a conversation around the Facebook post, ethnic division, and how the lack of ethnic inclusion impacted their local church. Everyone invited had to be an attender or member invested in their local church and also had to read material before they came. She did not want to be in the position of a lecturer or educator. She also wanted to be sure that those who were coming to discuss solutions and their impacts were coming with a base of knowledge needed to discuss creatively, effectively, and sincerely.

 

She asked me to come as a source of support and I was very excited and honored to do so. I did not know what to expect. Honestly, I would not have been surprised if it was just a small gathering of like-minded church members. However I was amazed at the turnout, those who responded to the post not only came but brought friends. I was also amazed by the preparation of each woman that was there, each had not only taken time to read the required resources but processed through them as well. What came from this meeting was a discussion that provided a variety of views, sincere questions, a sharing of different experiences, and challenges of certain perceptions. It was an opportunity to dialogue respectfully and sincerely. Following the meeting my friend proposed drafting a letter to the leadership of their local church body to inform them of the solutions that had been discussed and resources available to implement the solutions.

 

But as I walked away I thought, “Why am I feeling disappointed?” I quickly realized it was because there was nothing spectacular about the meeting. We didn’t walk away with this one-time, fix-it-all solution that was going to rock the foundation of the Church. There was nothing epic, there was nothing easy, and there were definitely moments of awkward silence. The overall lesson I walked away with is that the process of hoping and thereby acting for change is not sexy – it’s not flashy, it’s not enticing. But when we are called to HOPE because of the God we serve there is no excuse or another option.

 

Who’s With Me?

What is your role? What is your next step as a pastor, a business owner, or like my friend in the above example, as a predominantly stay-at-home mom who is 37 weeks pregnant?

 

Who’s with me?  Not doing anything scares me almost more than change never happening. We don’t have all of the answers, but to look back on this point of history and have done nothing? Have contributed little?

 

That will not be said of me. And may it not be said of you.

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Comments

  1. Nathan says

    I appreciate your honesty about feeling bitter. I’m a white male bitter towards the white evangelical church most days. I can’t imagine how I’d feel if were African American. Thank you for your hope. I’m not there but I found your podcast helpful.

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