Friday, August 3, 2012

Glad Prisoners of Hope

By Dr. Lee Canipe

During the long struggle to end apartheid in South Africa, journalist Ted Koppel interviewed Anglican bishop Desmond Tutu on Nightline. Koppel asked Tutu, himself a black South African, if the situation in that country was hopeless. “Of course, it’s hopeless from a human point of view,” replied the bishop. “But we believe in the resurrection, and so we are prisoners of hope.” An odd way to put it, perhaps, but also wonderfully accurate: Once we put our faith in something as preposterous as resurrection, it’s impossible to look at the world again in quite the same way.

If we can believe that God raised Jesus Christ from the grave, then it becomes hard to believe that any situation is ever beyond redemption, that any relationship is ever beyond reconciliation, that any person is ever beyond the reach of God’s powerful love. To believe in resurrection is to be captured by a hope that simply doesn’t conform to reason and, in fairness, can sound awfully foolish—especially given the fact that there’s nothing at all common-sensical about resurrection. If we can believe in resurrection, then even in our most cynical moments, the hope that holds us will find a way to whisper in our hearts: “Yeah, but with God, nothing is impossible.” The nineteenth century English poet Francis Thompson likened resurrection hope to being chased by the “hounds of heaven.” It’s hard to get away from—and aren’t we glad of that?!

And so, what does that mean for us? Well, for starters, it means that the Holy Spirit has given us the power to do the work of Jesus—and, in fact, says Jesus, to do “greater works than these, because I am going to the Father” (John 14:12). People who believe in resurrection look for where God is moving and then join God there, trusting that what the Lord has blessed will indeed bear good fruit. Sometimes this requires a leap of faith, stepping out into the unknown and trusting that God will be there—which, really, is the very essence of resurrection hope. May it be so with us. Alleluia!

The exchange between Koppel and Tutu is from From Our Christian Heritage, ed. Douglas Weaver (Macon, Ga.: Smyth & Helwys, 1997), 365.

Lee Canipe is the pastor of Murfreesboro Baptist Church in Murfreesboro, NC. This article originally appeared in their church newsletter, The Messenger.

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