Holding on to hope and judgment

May 8, 2013 | Viewpoints
Phil Wagler |

Nova Scotia teen Rehtaeh Parsons recently committed suicide after humiliating pictures of her alleged rape and shame flooded social media. While the powers-that-be considered what to do, in a cyber version of frontier justice a loose network of computer hackers known as Anonymous claimed to have discovered the alleged culprits and threatened to go public if the authorities didn’t act. When human beings see wrong, we hope for justice. In fact, what hope is there if evil won’t be judged?

Christians live with the unique tension of hope and judgment. Hope is tethered to God like a rope running from one end of history to the other. It runs through city centres, side roads, gated communities and ghettos. It is sure and strong no matter which way the wind is blowing or how tenuous our steps appear. Hope runs from God towards a future where God will restore all things, judge and dispense with evil, and bring all things together under the lordship of Christ.

Those who follow Jesus have the unique responsibility to put hands and heart on this great hope right now, for we live in a culture that knows things are irreparably damaged and yet hate when our sandy foundations show signs of erosion. In the realm of hope and judgment this is all littered with great ironies.

On the one hand, we don’t talk about heaven and mock those whose hope is placed there because we believe we already have it all or will somehow conjure it up. Meanwhile, we are the most insured society in history, unable to purchase even the smallest gadget without protection against its potential defects. We just can’t let go of the myth of progress, insuring the “heaven” we have bought or created, and are willing to buy insurance on our debt to prove it!

On the other hand, we pooh-pooh talk of hell, or ultimate judgment, because that smells medieval, but we love a host of apocalyptic movies, feverishly protest wrong and form online associations to catch the bad guys. We have made things worth protecting, and God and people worth disposing of. We abhor the reality of evil, but love when it entertains us. Is it any wonder we are confused?

What has happened? We have dropped the rope of hope, forgotten the lessons of history, rejected God’s future, and have become less than human—pretty little zombies—and this hopelessness leads to two massively disturbing questions posed by theologian N.T. Wright that all people, including Christians, must be asked:

  • [A]re you going to worship the creator God and discover thereby what it means to become fully and gloriously human, reflecting his powerful, healing, transformative love into the world?
  • Or are you going to worship the world as it is, boosting your corruptible humanness by gaining power or pleasure from forces within the world, but merely contributing thereby to your own dehumanization and the further corruption of the world itself?

To worship as a glorious human in this way is to grab hold of a hope that has invaded human history in Jesus Christ and will one day be fully realized. Each radical, obedient expression of the kingdom of heaven tugs God’s future closer and opens a window into what will one day be when all crying and pain—and jaw-dropping evil—is put away.

Phil Wagler (phil_wagler@yahoo.ca) is a prisoner of hope (Zechariah 9:12) in Surrey, B.C., and the author of Kingdom Culture.

Share this page: Twitter Instagram

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.