Heirs to the Hope

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably have heard about the events of Charlottesville. I’m not going to spend time hashing out the details because everybody knows them at this point. If you don’t know them, then Google is your friend. I don’t care what your political leanings are or what side of the issue you find yourself on. What I want to do is offer you a perspective that empowers you to be a better person.

That perspective can be found in a rather obscure scripture in the bible. The book of Titus is one of those “gloss through” books in the bible because it’s so short. Also there’s very little “marketable” material in there that hasn’t been said in a more powerful, more empowering, and more uplifting way somewhere else in the bible. There’s nothing exciting going on in this book. Titus was left on the island of Crete to be the pastor of the church there. He was looking for guidance, and his mentor, Paul, decided to write him a letter about sound doctrine. It’s a book that is very much cut and dry, right down the middle, and basically meant to encourage the preaching and teaching of sound doctrine.

So why have I chosen to use a scripture from Titus to apply to the situation in Charlottesville? Because there’s a powerful nugget rooted in there that I think we all need to hear and apply to our lives.So, let’s take a look at the passage:

3At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. 4But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone. 9But avoid foolish controversies and genealogies and arguments and quarrels about the law, because these are unprofitable and useless.

–Titus 3: 3-9

I find this passage interesting because I see three specific phases and moments that happen in pretty much all of our lives. I think if we become aware of those times and where we stand in relation to them, we might be more fully equipped to handle the situations we find ourselves in (even something as volatile as racial hate and discrimination).

A Time of Foolishness

3At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another.

This verse is awesome. I can hear you now. “Dude, what is awesome about THAT?” It’s awesome because it’s true. We all have a huge swath of our lives that is swept up in foolishness, passions, and envy. Anybody who has a sibling can relate to that last part. We spend a significant part of our lives wondering where we fall in the pecking order of love. We get mad when we feel we’ve been slighted. We get jealous when we see someone being treated better than us.

This is because we view the world through the lens of justice. In our time of foolishness, we expect everything to be FAIR. If there are ten people in the room and you want to bring food, then you best be bringing enough for everyone! Remember, caring is a sharing! All that hokey nonsense that gets pounded into your head as a kid. Not that I am anti-sharing, but it’s just not realistic or indicative of how the real world works at all.

The truth is that nature is a cruel and relentless wench. It chews people up and spits them out without a single care for who they are or where they are from or who they know. Suffering touches all of us at some point and some of us get a big old heaping dose of it. It’s NOT fair, at least from the perspective of justice and equality. And I will go as far to say that it will NEVER EVER EVER EVER EVER be fair no matter what cause we get behind or what group we align ourselves with. Even if everybody on the planet came together tomorrow and loved each other, we would still have disease and catastrophe and in some places (and times) famine.

My point is that, in our foolishness, we have an unrealistic expectation. I read a book once called The Expectation Hangover. I read it because I just went through a pretty crappy breakup and was starting to wonder if maybe I was having unrealistic expectations for myself. The beginning of my adult life was marred by a nasty divorce, and I hadn’t had much luck with any kind of local relationships since. There’s a great quote that from that book that I want to share with you:

“Trying to measure up to all our internal and external expectations leaves most of us living as human doings rather than human beings. Don’t let the weight of an Expectation Hangover keep you from reaching your highest potential.”  –Christine Hassler, author of Expectation Hangover

That’s a pretty succinct way of saying that the higher your expectations (the more you expect the world to be FAIR and JUST), the more you carry those expectations around with you like a sack of rocks. Each expectation you have about the world weighs you down just a little bit more. Each time you expect your spouse to be something they are not, you throw a rock in the bag. Each time you expect your kids to do something they don’t want to do, you throw another rock in the bag. Each time you expect God to come down and save you like a helpless puppy dog, you throw another rock in the bag.

In your time of foolishness you have massive expectations. And the real world will start shattering them (not in a good way) one by one until you reach another point in your life…

A Time of Salvation

4But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, 5he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, 6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior,

Before salvation, but after foolishness, there is another little mini-period (or maybe not so mini for many of you). I call it a period of hopelessness. For those of you who wrestle with depression, you know exactly what I’m talking about. You live in that period. I’ve lived in that period many times in my life. It’s helpful to note that the three periods I’m talking about are not “one and done” kind of deals. We continuously cycle through these phases throughout our lives.

It’s the moment that you look on the news and see someone running down people in their car because they are so filled with hate that they have lost control of their emotions. It’s the moment when you see the rich get richer while the poor suffer and the homeless go hungry. It’s the moment, somewhere in the freshness of your adult life, when you begin to see the world for what it really is and not for the veil that is put over your eyes so that you can enjoy your childhood.

For me it was the moment I decided that there was no God. One day on this blog I’ll tell this story in its entirety, but for now I want you to understand that I grew up in church. We went three times a week. I was as faithful a christian as anybody could be. I prayed three times a day, read my bible everyday (such that I had read it three times through by the time I was 18). I studied. I even taught Sunday School for a while. But the churches we were in kept letting us down. It seemed like every church we went to, there would be this massive upset and division in the congregation. One preacher slept with a teenager. One was stealing money from the church account. It was an endless cycle of disappointment.

When I became an adult, I left the church and decided that I was agnostic. I continued to study religion, but I broadened my horizons. I studied Buddhism, Taoism, and other religions. I started paying attention to the atheists’ arguments which made more and more sense to me until one night it hit me…THERE IS NO GOD.

At the time I was extremely happy. I went about my business free from the religious entanglements that weighed me down in my youth. About a year later, however, I was hit with depression (completely out of the blue) FOR NO REASON. At least none that was apparent in my physical life. I was pretty happy with my life at the time. But there I lay in the bed, depression washed down over me, having the strongest feeling of my life that I wanted to kill myself.

It was that period of time that led me to go back to church. I wanted to grasp onto something, anything, that would give me hope. So, one Wednesday night I jumped into my car and went back to the church that I had left ten years earlier. The pastor was shocked to see me, but he gave me a huge hug and made me feel welcome. When I listened to what he was preaching, it was apparent why I was led to go there that night. The message  was one hundred percent for me. The interesting part, to me, was that this pastor doesn’t pick random topics for bible study. He picked the book of Romans and had spent a year going through every single scripture in the book. And I had just so happened to show up on the night for this one:

28 Or that all things work together for good to those who love God, who; or that in all things God works together with those who love him to bring about what is good—with those who have been called according to his purpose — Romans 8:28

What a powerful verse! The message of the night was simple: God wants to help you clean up your mess AND he has plans for you. It was in that moment that I knew I was wrong about God. But I also knew that I had a lot of thinking to do because the bible didn’t make a lot of sense to me. It led me to the next phase of life…

A Time of Hope

6whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, 7so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. 8This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone

And now we get to the point of this post. You see, we will spend much of lives in foolishness and hopelessness, in need of saving. And, because life does not appear to be fair, no one is going to come to save us. Nobody is just going to see inside of your heart, see the hurt and pain that you feel, and decide that you need saving. Nobody, that is, except for Jesus Christ.

Now don’t shy back from me. I don’t mean that, necessarily, in the way that most Christians say it to you. Most Christians will say that to you the moment before they try to convert you all pushy like. Get on your knees. Say these things. And BOOM! You are saved! Yay!

I am saying it in the sense that the life of Jesus and the words he spoke and the things he did are all a big fat message of HOPE. You can be transformed from whatever situation you are in. Whether you’re laying in a bed contemplating killing yourself or you are sleeping homeless under a bridge. Whether you parents abandoned you. Whatever your situation. The idea is that the message here, the ones who find inner peace, are the ones who find HOPE and a purpose.

Through him, you find hope and a purpose. What happens is that you stop looking at the world through that old lens of justice and fairness, and you start looking at the world through the lens of hope and faith and love. When you pull those hope glasses over your eyes, you start seeing things that you didn’t see before because YOUR PERSPECTIVE HAS SHIFTED. That’s the climax of this story. That’s my message for you today. If you want to have massive breakthroughs in your life, you have to CHANGE YOUR PERSPECTIVE.

It’s not easy to shift that perspective. Many personal development sites will do this through NLP (Neuro-Linguistic Programming). Psychologists will try to do this through cognitive behavior therapy. Scripture urges you to do this by taking on the perspective of Jesus, one that says to love each other as you love yourself, to love those that hate you, and to do good to those who use you. When you start looking at the world through that lens, all that nonsense about the world being fair goes flying out the window. You don’t care if the world is fair. You accept what is. You find gratitude in where you are at instead of constantly hoping for things to be different. And when that happens, all those rocks fall off your back and you begin to move forward with a new confidence.

My heart goes out to the victims’ and their families at Charlottesville. I want you to know just one thing, and I will end this with a very popular quote by Martin Luther King. I’m sure you’ve heard it, but we could use this reminder today moreso than ever.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. — Martin Luther King

I ask you to consider setting aside the foolishness and the hopelessness and take on the perspective of love. See the world through the eyes of love and you will begin to find hope again.

If you enjoyed this post, feel free to leave a comment below. Also, please share it with someone who could use encouragement. Thank you for your patience and God bless!