ALVEY: Respond in hope and not fear

Published 8:18 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2017

By Jack Alvey | Alvey is the rector at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church

I’ve heard it said how one reads Genesis 3:9 dictates how one will interpret the entirety of scripture. If God is perceived as a Father out to punish his children, then one is likely to have a fear-based response to scripture. If God is perceived as a loving Father who wants to draw closer to his children, then one is likely to have a hope-based response to scripture.

In my experience, a fear-based response to scripture paralyzes us in a way where we cannot hear a word of hope. And if we cannot hear hope, then how can we act in love? If we are seized by fear, we are likely to focus more on trying not to mess up and less on risking our lives for Jesus and the sake of the gospel.

Responding to the gospel message isn’t about a fear-based response where our lives marked by trying to avoid hell and eternal punishment.

Rather, responding to the gospel message is about finding the joy of salvation in all the wrong places – at the food pantry, at the medical clinic, by welcoming the foreign refugee into your home, at the local prison.

We certainly live in fearful times where decisions are made from a place of fear instead of a place of hope. We live in a world where people walk into a church and gun down the congregation. Instead of talking about how we can reach out in love and concern to those in our society who are driven to commit such acts, we talk about having armed guards at the entrance of our church.

We live in a world where the sanctity of life and marriage are threatened at every level of society. Instead of talking about ways to rebuild our families and our communities with compassion and grace, we cast the blame on the poor, the gay, the other – the most vulnerable.

We live in a world where those who occupy positions of public trust cannot be trusted.

Instead of talking about how to move beyond partisan politics and slanderous rhetoric, we root ourselves even more firmly in our partisan positions even when there is no solid ground to root ourselves in.

There is no doubt that fear is the easier and more convenient response to the sins of the world. A fear-based response solves the problem in the here and now. A response based in fear makes us feel better in the short-term. Ultimately, a fear based response leaves the next generation to clean up the mess.

And there is no doubt that a hope-based response plays the long game. A response rooted in hope is risky because hope changes a narrative of death into a narrative of life and any kind of change, no matter how positive, is scary.

A response based in hope is likely to cause pain and suffering – see Jesus on the cross. A hope-based response, however, endures in the long-run because ours is a God whose hope for us lives beyond the grave in Jesus Christ.