I heard a story this past week.
As the tale was recounted, my mind reeled in disbelief. Gashed by the story’s hypocrisy, betrayal, and layers of deceit, my heart throbbed with sadness. Self-centered actions sent tremors of pain, harm and relational loss through a trusting, unsuspecting sphere of influence.
Alas, I shouldn’t be surprised or shocked by this all too familiar story. Our world has groomed us into a self-centered, self-pleasing lot. Bombarded with messages that we deserve this, that or the other thing, we are overwhelmed by humanistic thinking and practice. We expect to be catered to and served up in a way that every possible need is met. And we are outraged and offended when we are not treated with the way we most prefer. Yet, there are grave consequences to this ego-centric thinking. We develop a spirit of entitlement. Instead of being known as a people who serve and love, we expect and demand. And if this attitude goes unchecked, we conclude that we can do whatever we want, whenever we want, how we want, regardless of the destruction we cause by our self-absorbed behavior.
The effects of the offense continue to reverberate. Wounded hearts are struggling in various stages of denial, avoidance, anger, retribution, loss, and sadness. Healing, forgiveness and renewed health will be a long time coming.
No matter who we are or what we’ve experienced in life, the outcome is always the same with the self-centered behaviors of man. This is sin.
And, sin always breaks the heart.
Yet, in the midst of this tragic circumstance, the hope of Christ remains.
We were never told that this life on earth would be a walk in the park. In fact, Jesus Christ Himself warned us that troubles would strike. We shouldn’t be surprised by the betrayals, hardships, or tragedies that surface. I confess, though, that I am still saddened and shocked by the actions of people at times – I honestly expect more – especially among those who claim they are followers of Christ.
The conduct of Christ followers should be above reproach and above criticism.
Our love of God should inspire us to love others in a genuine, affirming, and uplifting way. Selfish motives should be non-existent in a Believer’s life. Instead, every thought, desire, motive, decision, and action are filtered through our desire of bringing honor and glory to Jesus Christ.
Peter understood this truth. He wrote to the community of Believers:
Who is going to harm you if you are eager to do good? But even if you should suffer for what is right, you are blessed. “Do not fear what they fear; do not be frightened. But in your hearts, set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience….”
New International Version, 1 Peter 3: 13 – 16a
What would have happened if the characters in this recent tragedy had stopped and redirected their hearts towards Jesus Christ?
What would have happened if they had remembered to recount the hope they have in Christ and set their lives apart for Him alone instead of focusing upon their self-indulgent desires?
Alas, these questions were not asked ahead of time. Or were discounted or ignored.
As a result, this sad story emphasizes the failure of some to embrace the secure, strengthening hope that is available in Jesus Christ.
Friends, this story is an example of how someone did not consistently acknowledge or take hold of the hope that we have within our souls.
Alas, this is not an isolated incident.
I keep asking and asking as I look about me, where is the hope found in Christ among His followers?
Why do so many believers discount and ignore the power of Christ’s hope?
Peter extols us to take hold of the hope-filled assurance we have in Christ every day!
Peter reminds us that hope is present always – especially if we have confessed Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior.
Peter challenges us to stand firm and be courageous in the face of trouble.
He asks us to fix our hearts upon Jesus Christ, living in accordance to His example and call upon our lives.
And he prompts us to be gentle and respectful with our words and walk with a clear conscience with every type of person and in every matter of circumstance.
Again, we cannot accomplish such a feat without setting our hearts apart in Christ and remembering the empowering, grace-giving, redemptive, and blessed hope we have in Him.
The decisions we make and the actions we take are never lived out within a vacuum. We need to remember that when we are tempted to do something that is wrongly and exorbitantly self-centered. The result will always be damaged and broken relationships.
Yet, that doesn’t mean that something good and redemptive cannot arise from the ashes of this pain and loss. It can. Redemption begins with hope and forgiveness as we step forward into the grace of Christ.
Friends, do you know someone who made a mistake recently? A big, fat, whopper of a relational mistake? Is it a selfish error that cannot be taken back, but needs to be forgiven and redeemed? Or maybe it’s you. You’ve made a mistake and you’re hurting from the situation and wonder how to make amends.
Start with the hope of Christ.
Hope is a joyful, expectant confidence in the salvation of Jesus Christ.
This hope is assured and it is offered to you and to me. Take hold of this amazing hope and live into this wondrous gift. As you do so, surrender your heart and mind to Jesus Christ. Seek God’s forgiveness you either need for yourself or that you need to give to those that have offended and hurt you. Give up your self-centered worries and cares and instead look around to see who is hurting among you – you won’t have to look far – and reach out to them with the love of Christ.
Friends, the story I heard about is a cautionary tale for you and for me.
Think of it this way:
By acknowledging, embracing, and acting upon the hope of Christ, this hope serves as a protective mechanism for the decisions and actions we take in life. Not only does the hope of Christ counter our selfish thinking, but it can shield us from despair, worry, doubt, and fear. Don’t we want to take advantage of that kind of hope in our lives? Don’t we want to be known as people of hope – especially if we follow Christ?
Do not take the hope of Christ for granted or deny its power and strength, Friends. Take hold.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have….
This hope-filled readiness can protect and save us and those we love from grave harm.
Do you believe that?
If yes, how will you live in recognition of the hope you possess in Christ?