Against Cheap Hope

Here are a few thoughts from a sermon I gave last Sunday. I was asked to speak on the theme of “hope for nature.”

. . . People who encountered Jesus encountered hope. Think of the person with leprosy and the one who was oppressed by an unclean spirit. Think of the paralytic and the disciples caught in the storm. Think of the deaf man, the Syrophoenician woman and the fellow who was blind. Think of the thousands of people whom Jesus fed. To encounter Jesus was to encounter hope.

The early church believed that hope was integral to following Jesus (I Cor. 13). It was considered one of the three key virtues. There is love—of course. There is faith. We talk a lot about faith. And then there is hope.

. . . followers of Jesus are people of hope. So, yes, we should be hopeful. But our hope must not be a cheap hope. Maybe you’ve heard of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer who railed against the “cheap grace” he saw being taught during the rise of the Nazism. He observed that cheap grace was something handed out like disposable junk. He said, “Cheap grace is the preaching of forgiveness without requiring repentance.”

Just as Bonhoeffer cautioned people to be wary of cheap grace, we should be wary of cheap hope. Cheap hope for nature is the idea that nothing is required of us. It is the idea that we can simply sit back and ignore the impact of our society’s greed without moving a muscle to make a change. Cheap hope is optimism without warrant.

*Though the views expressed here are my own, I am inspired by the work of my A Rocha colleagues. If you would like to learn more about A Rocha Ontario or support our work of creation care, please look us up on the web and consider signing up for our e-newsletter.

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