I’m watching The Shawshank Redemption. There’s this great dialogue between Andy & Red, with two conflicting ideas about hope.
Andy: ‘There are places in this world that aren’t made out of stone. That there’s something inside… that they can’t get to, that they can’t touch. That’s yours.’
Red: ‘What’re you talking about?’
Red: ‘Let me tell you something my friend. Hope is a dangerous thing. Hope can drive a man insane.’
It stood out to me because I’m also busily reading German theologian Jurgen Moltmann’s Theology of Hope. It explores the hope we can have in Yahweh, the God of the bible. Hope in Yahweh is real hope. Andy and Red’s versions of hope both fall woefully short of the mark. The promises of Yahweh, the one true God, are made of stone. They are made of stone in that they are certain. They are sure. Yahweh is the one who promises, and he is faithful to his promise. Real hope is not waiting for some undefinable, invisible future. Such hope is baseless and powerless. Real hope is in the promise of Yahweh, a certain promise for a certain future, a new reality which God will bring about. Real hope anticipates the future promised by the bodily resurrection of Jesus. Real. Physical. Yes, real hope is within us; but only because of the God who is outside of us, outside of the world, who has come into th world in Jesus to reconcile all things to himself.
Real hope does not drive insane. But it may be dangerous. Whether or not it is dangerous depends on your perspective. Real hope opens our sight to the future reality that God has made possible through Jesus. It gives us strength to persevere. It also gives us a programme. Because real hope looks towards the sure and certain future of Jesus the Christ, we can begin to live in the present in light of that future. Real hope gives us strength to change the present, shaping things that they might also point towards that certain future. As Moltmann says, echoing Psalm 104, real hope sees us as part of God’s work to ‘change the face of the face of the world.’
Dangerous hope? Maybe. There will always be those who want the world to remain as it is. For them, real hope stands as an obstacle to their desire for power and authority which does not rightly belong to them. I, for one, look forward to the return of Jesus the Christ, who will make all things new. In the meantime, I can’t wait to keep enjoying the ways in which God chooses to use my brothers and sisters and I to put real hope into practice.