I am thrilled that Barack Obama will be the next president of the United States. His victory is unprecedented, exciting, and historic. But for all the energy and time I put into absorbing the campaign I'm convinced there's something more. Yes, America has definitively chosen Obama as the man they want to bring change to our country – even the world. But our collective decision to put our hope in a politician should pale in comparison to a real authentic hope – hope grounded in faith.
Hebrews 11 fantastically begins by defining “faith” as being “sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see” (TNIV). For those of us who have grown up hearing this verse it might not be as shocking as it was intended to be. How can we be sure of what we hope for? Isn’t hope, by definition, something we’re not supposed to be sure of? How can we be certain of what we do not see?
Barack Obama, whether you’re a critic or not, will fail. He will bring change, but it might not be the change we counted on. Promises will be broken, expectations dashed, people disappointed. And he still might do a very good job! The point is we can’t be sure of what we hope for in Barack Obama.
But the promise we have in Jesus Christ, if we are men and women of faith, is victory over death, salvation from sin, eternal life. Since Jesus came to establish his kingdom as something we can already be engaged in but is not yet fully fulfilled, we have the privilege of praying that his “will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. It’s not a dreamy sort of fairy tale happy-ending - it’s a concrete here-and-now kingdom that Jesus established and modeled.
This is the exciting thing. Our hope, or even better, our faith in Jesus Christ is not a stale 2000 year old superstition. Our faith, as James claims, is a call to action. So the challenge comes in asking what good our faith is without action. How will our beliefs inform our decisions? How will we reach out to those in need?
And Hebrews 12 picks up the theme of action. “Let’s run with perseverance”…”consider him who endured opposition”… “do not grow weary and lose heart”. Why? Because we have hope we can believe in modeled by someone who lived it out. And that’s going to last beyond Obama’s presidency. It’ll last beyond the empire that is the United States. “His kingdom will not pass away,” “his love will endure forever”!
As an aside, before Election Day I read two posts that influenced some of the thoughts expressed here. The first was from a blogger who picked up on some comments by John Piper in which he said Christians should “vote as if they were not voting”. The second by my father who considers his “eternal retirement account” more important that his earthly savings.
The cynical side of me worries that Christians will become so focused on the “world to come” that they ignore the responsibilities and privileges of living out a genuine faith in our current life. If we’re voting as if we’re not voting, I would fear we might not vote for example.
Authentic hope sees past cynicism though. The truth is that our eternal hope must manifest itself through our lives if we claim to have genuine faith. So in the words of Hebrews 12: “Let us throw off everything that hinders…and run with perseverance the race marked out for us”. And let us do so with the authenticity of hope grounded in faith.