Most of the youth I have the privilege of serving come with an edge of skepticism and cynicism. Where this comes from could be the data of a global study, but my context says that it’s a very real thing. “Why can’t I drink at the party?” “What’s wrong with sex before marriage?” “The Bible doesn’t really say that much about homosexuality…”
During the past year, our local congregation has been without a pastor, so we were exposed to a lot of different voices as we listened to God each week. One of those voices who came weekly often left everyone reflecting “I loved that sermon!”
As I took a hard look at why, it occurred to me how interwoven each sermon was with hope. There’s actually hope in Jesus’ death. There’s actually hope in the parable of the sower for the seeds amongst the thorns, amongst the rocks. And there’s especially hope for the robber on the cross.
What made these sermons stick to those of us who had the privilege of listening to them was the whole point of Jesus: to present the world with hopefulness. Instead of conviction of how or what to do, we were given hope through the message. This is why I’m concerned for the youth and young adults.
Our generation is so quickly drawn to skepticism and cynicism. Instead of looking at the world as a hopeful place, we’ve spent our whole lives seeing what’s wrong with the world. We’ve spent a long time pondering how to protect ourselves with our home security systems and GMO food products. We spend countless dollars on preserving our lives, and beautifying our figures. Counselors protect us from bearing the cross of others literally, while our capacity to live in union with neighbors continually grows more distant by the hour.
Not that taking our time to make good decisions is a bad thing, or that healthy lives is an unhealthy way to live, but maybe it’s not what Jesus had in mind. The great early church father, Origen put it this way: “the coming of Jesus opened the eyes of readers who might have been skeptical about the divinity [of Scripture] to the fact that these writings were indeed composed with the help of divine grace. Everyone who approaches [Scripture] attentively and diligently will experience a trace of divine enthusiasm in the very act of reading; the experience will convince him that what we believe to be God’s words are not human writings.”
Origen is arguing the divinity of Scripture, and this can only be a sample of his argument as a whole, but he exemplifies perfectly the same skepticism we face today—how hopeful are you about Jesus (and Scripture)? And this raises the question of belief: Do you believe that God is alive, that God is omnipotent, that God can and does act today?
I think if we really do believe in God, in His Word, then God has something to say, God has something to do, and God’s sick of waiting for us to get beyond our unbelief. We’re hopeless if we don’t truly believe in Christ, and hope was a primary aspect of His message.
- Are you hopeful toward the Church, or hopeless toward the Church? Why?
- How might we challenge unbelief?
Action: Write down three ways in which you can be hopeful this week, and share them with at least one other person. Ask them to do the same, and evaluate the outcome.