The second of the three Theological virtues is Hope. The continual looking forward towards the eternal world is not escapism or wishful thinking, but rather one of those things a Christina is meant to do. It does not mean that we are to ignore this world and leave it as it is, you will find that if you study history that the Christians who did the most for the present world were those who thought most of the next. From the Apostles themselves to the great men of the Middle Ages, the English Evangelicals who abolished the Slave trade, to those American Christians who engaged the world bringing the truth of Christ; all left their mark on Earth precisely because their minds were occupied with the next.
It is because Christians today have largely ceased to think of the next world that they have become so ineffective in this. Aim at Heaven and you will get earth “thrown in”; aim at earth and you will get neither. That seems a strange rule, but you can see it at work in other matters as well. For example, Health is a great blessing, but the moment you make health one of your primary objectives you start imagining there is something wrong with you, you feel aches and pains that were not there before. You are only likely to get health provided you want other things more – food, games, work, fun, fresh air, etc… In the same way we will never save civilization as long as our civilization is our main object. We must learn to want something else even more.
Most of us find it extremely difficult to genuinely want “Heaven” at all – except as it means we get to meet our friends and family again who have died. There are two reasons for this, the first is that we are taught to fixate on this world, the second and more important is that we do not recognize the real want for Heaven in us. Most people, if they have really learned to examine their own heart, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all measures of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite live up to that promise. The longings which arise in us when we first fall in love, or first think of some trip to a foreign country, or first take up some project that excites us; are all longings which no marriage, no travel, no completed project can really satisfy. There was something at the beginning that we grasped at, in that first moment of longing, which fades away under the glare of reality. I think you know what I mean; the spouse may be a good spouse, the hotels 5 star, the scenery may be beautiful and: computer programing may be a very interesting job: but something has evaded us.
There are three ways to deal with this fact, two that are wrong, and one right way. The two wrong ways will need little explanation as we see it played out in the lives of all those around us, the right way however may need a bit of an explanation.
1. The Fool’s Way – He puts the blame on the things themselves. He goes his entire life thinking that if only he was with another person, took a more expensive vacation, or whatever it happens to be; then this time he really would catch the mysterious something we are all chasing. Most of the people in the western world are this type. They spend their entire lives going from woman to woman, man to man (via divorce courts), from city to city, hobby to hobby, always thinking that the latest is “the Real Thing” – only to be disappointed once again.
2. The Way of the Disillusioned ‘Sensible Person’- He decides that the entire thing was an illusion, something one feels when one is young. But when you grow up, you‘ve given up chasing the rainbow’s end. So he settles and learns to not expect much, and to repress the part of himself which used to seek his deepest dreams. If life was finite, this would be the best approach, but suppose infinite happiness really is there waiting for us? Suppose one really can reach the rainbow’s end? In that case it would be tragic to find out the moment after death that by our supposed ‘common sense’ we had stifled in ourselves that faculty of enjoying it.
3. The Christian Way – Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for those desires exists. A baby feels hungry – there is such a thing as food, a duckling wants to swim, there is such a thing as water. Humans feel sexual desire, there is such a thing as sex. The only logical conclusion then is that if I find a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable and logical explanation is that I was made for another world. If none of the pleasures of this world does not satisfy it, that does not prove that the universe is a fraud. It means earthly pleasures were never meant to satisfy it, rather only to arouse it, to hint at the real thing.
If that is so, then I need to take great care to never despise, or be unthankful for these earthly blessings, and on the other hand to never mistake them for the something of which they are but echo, a mirage to the living. I must keep alive in myself the desire for my true home, which I will not find until after my death; I must never let it get buried under the sand, or tossed aside in the clutter of life; I must make it the main object of my life - to press on to that home and to help others that I encounter on my way, to do the same.
Hope is the pursuit of Home.
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