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Understanding and living with hope

There is not any of us who has not been affected by the continuous violent shootings in our time. The terrible atrocities committed against other groups or individuals is simply unthinkable and now totals 232 mass shootings in the United States in 2018. Tears have welled up in my eyes as I have watched pictures of victims or the injured, listened to the agony of bereaved families, seen young people running for their lives, been made aware of ambushes, and witnessed the countless investigations of these senseless ongoing crimes.

Another emotion that has crept in has been anger. How could anybody do something like shooting and killing other people, including bystanders and other innocent victims hit by random or stray bullets. There is no reason or cause big enough to be so heartless and careless with the sacred value of human life. All of it just shows how sinful and depraved this world really is. Humankind’s inhumanity to humankind is simply unbelievable.

Yet, still another emotion that has developed in me as I have watched these unfortunate incidents has been gratitude. I have been so grateful to see countless “Good Samaritans” offering their assistance to their hurting, despairing neighbors. This is the other side of humanity-the Godly side.

After 911, I remember hearing Larry King asked Rabbi Harold Kushner “where God is in all this.”

Rabbi Kushner answered, “In those rescue workers.” In the light of these terrible shootings and killings, including Jacksonville, is a day for an article on hope.

The Apostle Paul also realized the necessity of hope, when in the tragedies of his day, wrote, “We are saved by hope (Romans 8:24).” The one truth that kept Paul alive was the fact that the human situation is not a hopeless situation. To be sure, Paul was aware of humankind’s sin. He had experienced it, and he saw it. But, thank goodness, Paul also saw God’s redeeming power, and because of that power had hope.

Paul not only lived in the world, he also lived in Christ. Thus, life to Paul was not some kind of fearful, defeated waiting. Rather, life to Paul was a hopeful, vivid expectation of God’s re-creation. The Apostle Paul was an Apostle Of hope.

In Thomas Shapcott’s novel “Hotel Bellevue,” the central character, as s child, asks his grandmother, “When you die, what will you give me?” She answered, “Sole heir of my hopes.”

“Oh, St. Paul, as 21st century people of faith, what will you give us?”

“For God’s sake, for the world’s sake, for America’s sake, make us heirs of your hopes.” The question is, “How can we live hopeful lives in a violent world like this?

First, we can identify our hopelessness. We have simply believed too many things that are not true! We have believed in something called “progress” — that everything is just getting better automatically in our trek toward a greater life. What an illusion.

If things are getting better and better on their own, who needs God? Why bother with the truth of the Bible or our sins or trying to love other people?

Point! The shootings and violence in our society are not automatically going to stop. It will take a myriad of people praying and working together-mental health representatives, law enforcement personnel, human rights advocates, social workers, local and federal governments, across-the-aisle politicians, school officials, reasonable gun advocates and laws, judges of the courts, religious leaders and concerned citizens all meeting together and making this critical issue a priority.

Second, we can live a hopeful life by reclaiming the true nature of hope. The one note that consistently sounds throughout scripture like a beautiful refrain is that God abides faithful and is the source of our hope. The whole point of the resurrection is that God can take the worst possible situation and turn it into victory.

Third, we can live a hopeful life by “just doing it.”

Saint Augustine once said that “Hope has two beautiful daughters and their names are anger and courage: anger at the way things are and courage to see that they do not remain the way they are.” Hope to be meaningful must be linked to deeds. Nike is right in its advertisement, “Just Do It.”

The most hopeful people in America today are those who are doing something. They are working as rescue workers. They are giving blood. They are writing letters or sending emails to the editors or managers of local newspapers or television stations and to state and national politicians. They are raising funds to help with the crises. They are attending worship services. They are praying for and reaching out to those in need.