How we say things matters. The words that we use to express our ideas matter. Particularly in a time in which culture has adopted so much of our Christian language and watered it down, it matters how we say things...and how we ensure that what we mean when we say it is understood.
The world has tried to tell us, more and more as time goes on, what words like 'love' mean - and it's a far cry from what Jesus meant when He used the word. The same is true about 'life' and about 'forgiveness' and about 'humility.' We're even looking at words like 'righteous' right now, which, even if not used verbally, is implied by action, and the world is changing all of these ideas right before our very eyes. And we are letting them. How many of us find ourselves using these words the way the world uses them? Even if we try, then, to bridge the gap, the distance is too great. Once we let the world co-opt our language, we have lost it.
In current times, we are even seeing a resurgence of the word 'faith,' as the world keeps telling us to put our 'faith' in 'science.' Or in public leaders. Or in politicians. Or in public health experts. Some Christians have even been saying the same thing - we have to have 'faith' in our leaders.
No, friends, we have to have faith in our God. He's the only one worthy of our faith.
This is an idea that I talk about from time to time and keep coming back to because it's extremely important. So what I'm going to say today is something you've probably heard from me before if you've been reading along for awhile, but it struck me again this week as I read just five little words that a friend of mine posted on Facebook.
In the midst of family tragedy and unexpected loss, my friend posted a short snippet saying that as Christians, "we take comfort in the hope that we know we will see him again." And those five words jumped out at me:
"The hope that we know."
To the world, this doesn't make any sense. If it's a hope, then how can we know? Hopes are nothing more than pipe dreams. Wishes. Wants. Hopes are something you would prefer to happen, but you can't stake your life on it. You certainly can't stake your heart on it. Hope, in the world's definition, even comes with a bit of resignation, as though the thing that you hope for is, by its very nature, unlikely. Certainly, it would be nice if it happened, but it probably won't. That's why, for the world, it's a 'hope.'
But that's not what Christian hope is. Christian hope is a confident assurance in things that we know are certain. Christian hope rests in the promises of a God who has never failed to deliver for His people. Christian hope says with certainty that something is coming; we see it on the horizon, even in the dead of the darkest night, because we are so sure of it. Hope, for the Christian, is something we 'know.'
Most of us have forgotten that.
Most of us have let the world change our definition of hope. Most of us have, at one time or another, found ourselves saying to someone else, even to another Christian, "Brother, I hope that works out for you" or "Sister, I hope that gets better for you." Completely devoid of a single promise of God, we just cast our cares to the wind and cross our fingers. Maybe something good will come of it. Maybe it will be okay. Maybe somehow, it will all come together.
What about the God who works all things together for the good of those who love Him? What about the hope that we have that He is already working on our behalf? What about the promise He's made, the one He's whispered into our hearts and spoken over our lives and woven into eternity?
Those five words jumped out at me from the slog of a very heavy social media feed, and I just stopped. What if we, as Christians, started speaking with more promise? What if we started speaking with more confident assurance? What if we reclaimed even one word - even this word, 'hope' - from the vocabulary of our culture and stopped pretending that hope is like throwing wishes into the wind and started living like hope is absolute, rock solid, 100% knowing the promises of God?