As the campaign season moves into its next phase it seems to be getting sillier and meaner. When it should be turning more serious, it just seems to be getting more personality driven and more “gotcha” driven. It might be cute if planes were not getting shot down in the Sinai, if we were not nixing the one thing just the threat of which has been forcing the cartels to keep oil prices low, and if it did not seem like the world was simply mad. It almost seem hopeless. Worse, candidates that try to offer a hopeful vision for the nation seem to be drowned out by the snarky.
(What is really awful about that is all the wasted snark that should be aimed at the Cleveland Browns.)
I have watched hope narrow over my lifetime. When I was a kid we hoped not only for ourselves and our lives and our success, but we hoped for a better country and a better world. Young people I talk to today hope for themselves, but that is where it ends. Some are simply cynical about the rest of us. Some see a world of competing personal hopes that will inevitably result in conflict. Almost all of them look around and see chaos and have no place to plant hope. Even the Christian young people I talk to see God as either so hemmed in by culture or so focused on their personal issues that He offers no real hope for the world. In some ways it is no wonder that they withdraw into a bubble of close friends and virtual reality. And that is when I have to work very hard to maintain my hope.
We Americans are extraordinarily sectarian. We will fight over whether to say “debts” or “trespasses” in the Lord’s Prayer, not to mention “priest” versus “minister” in reference to our clergy. But we have always been united by a God that is sufficiently sovereign to rise above all of that and carry us forward as a nation, and more to use our nation to carry the world forward. For some that sovereign God was nothing more than an amorphous “force” in creation and for some of us He was incarnated in a person a couple of thousand years ago, but we all knew there was something out there bigger than us that was ultimately in charge. And that gave us hope.
It still can.
The key is to not withdraw into a controlled bubble, but to rise above. As the apostle Paul put it, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed….” As Jesus put it, “And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. If he does, the wine will burst the skins—and the wine is destroyed, and so are the skins. But new wine is for fresh wineskins.” We are different, and our difference enables us to rise above.
As Jesus tells His followers when he leaves the earth, “But you will receive power….” When we allow God to be hemmed in, or we reduce Him to something merely personal, we deny that power instead of rely on it. When we hope, not just for ourselves and our loved ones, but for the world, we rely on that power. And the more we rely on it, the more we will hope.
Hope is an attractive thing. That is why candidates that tell us they are going to make things better succeed far more than candidates that just tell us how bad things are. But it is easy to say you are going to make things better – it is very hard to have the hope that comes from God’s power shine through you. I don’t know what candidate has that shine just yet, I see glimpses of it in most of them.
But I do know this, we need to be shining right now. Our shine will help us recognize theirs. Moreover, our hope, rooted in a sovereign God, is where things really will start to improve. There is only so much a president can do, but as a nation there is little we cannot do.