Hope is a hot topic these days in the midst of Barack Obama’s campaign for president. But what are we looking for when we talk about hope? I’d like to take a look at our hope for peace in this world, and I believe the list of paths to peace is incredibly short. In fact, there is only one way that our hopes of peace can ever become a reality.
We cannot have peace without humility and loss. The only question we have to answer is if we want to take these steps now or after a war decides who has to be the humble loser. The peace of Rome during the time of Christ was based on conquering people and then imposing Roman rule. Instead of both sides humbly figuring a way around military conflict, Rome and the enemies of Rome fought until only one was left standing.
We have the same problem today where cycles of violence spiral out of control. A suicide bombing merits a military reprisal, and so we go on and on. We see it every day in the Middle East. Do we have any hope?
At the risk of sounding cliche, Jesus actually addresses this problem in a very real, complete, and practical way.
If we define one of the major problems in our world as pride, an inability to admit we have to lose sometimes and cannot always end up on top, Jesus offers the antidote of humility, suffering, and redemption. Instead of insisting that our blood is avenged, our purposes prevail, and our nation rules supreme over our enemies, Jesus offers a costly counter-narrative that can realistically bring about peace.
Instead of killing each other in order to support our own stories and our pride, Jesus offers a different story, a story where God is actually willing to drop his divinity, his “distance” from this earth. God takes up human suffering, human struggles, human death. Are we so familiar with the concept of the incarnation that we miss the miracle here?
God weeps, endures temptation, and is brutally killed.
This is God, the creator of our world, that we’re talking about here.
Why would God do this? What could God possibly gain by dying here on earth? Our answer begins with our pride, our sense of self-importance, our reliance on our own wisdom and value, and all of the delusions that keep us away from God. Jesus smashes into these delusions by showing that God, the only being who can stand head and shoulders over our ant-like pride, is willing to take the hit, suffer the loss, and end the cycles of pride, violence, and injustice in our world. God has shown us the way forward, the way to hope: sacrifice.
Peace comes through sacrifice whether we fight a war or choose to take the hit, swallow our pride, and work toward resolution. The difference is that the former ends up in the subjugation of one under another and wreaks havoc on civilization, while the latter cuts into our sense of self-worth, may cost some physical things, but ultimately brings about a redemptive conclusion where true justice has a fighting chance.
Jesus gave us hope by modeling sacrifice. It’s not a popular way to go, but it’s the only sure hope we have. And daunting though it is to imagine spreading Jesus’ message of reconciliation with God and with one another around the world, we can start today by praying, by believing and by hoping that God will use us to take these humble steps toward the kind of peace and hope we all long for.