It’s been a tough week.
Three young men whom I knew — in their 20s and 30s — tragically died, all within days of each another. One took his life; another overdosed; the last passed away in his sleep.
On Sunday morning, I showed up at the church where the first two men were active members. My wife, clipboard in hand, was organizing a funeral meal. The pastors were there, ministering comfort. People were hugging each other and shedding tears. I thought to myself, “This is the church that I know and love – the church that bands together and loves each other, especially when the chips are down.”
I sat down while the praise band warmed up. I looked around at all the little knots of people. I thought that the church was no different from other groups that suffer loss and come together in tragedy. Certainly Christians have no corner on love and compassion. A caring atheist would hug a grieving friend or bring food. Then, as the pastor began preaching a powerful message on heaven and eternal life, it hit me: the church has a monopoly of hope.
I’m not talking about wishful thinking. I’m not referring to the gauzy belief that things might get better. Lots of people vaguely long for a better future. No, I’m pointing to the “substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1). I’m talking about the hope that does not disappoint (Romans 5:5) — not a hope, but the hope. This hope is not an intangible thing, but a living Person. It was made possible by one earth-shattering event: the Resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (I Peter 1:3).
This is a strange monopoly. It isn’t tightly held by a tycoon or small group of oligarchs. It’s the only monopoly that’s been entrusted to one organization, but isn’t supposed to stay within that organization. No business, government, university or civic club has the mission that the church has — to share the “hope of glory.“ It is the church’s to have, but it is also the church’s to share.
Do you have this hope?
If not, you can.
It is free.
It is readily available.
It is easily accessible.
I can’t give it to you. The church can’t really give it to you, either, because we didn’t create this hope. We are only here to broker it. At worship, I was reminded of this important fact. We were grieving the loss of these young men. The pastors’ voices cracked with emotion as they spoke and prayed. On their own, they had nothing to give to anyone. But they boldly proclaimed the hope that was in them. They knew Christ and they made sure that everyone within earshot would hear the Good News.
I am still grieving. But I stand firm in hope. The three men who passed from this life had trusted Christ. And, with the Apostle Paul I am convinced that that “neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor heavenly rulers, nor things that are present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:38-39).
That’s the basis of my hope.