Can We Hope for a Better World?
Dr. Domenic Marbaniang
The world today is caught in several social and political turmoils. For many today, government is not the answer to the problem; government is the problem. The Carnegie Global Protest Tracker reports about 100 significant anti-government protests that have erupted worldwide in the past 3 years leading to the fall of about 30 such governments or leaders as a result. The Corruption Perception Index 2019 indicated that about 120 countries in the world face very high corruption issues in the public sector. The frustrating prevalence of corruption "from fraud that occurs at the highest levels of government to petty bribery that blocks access to basic public services like health care and education" has led to increasing distrust in the government and eroded public confidence in political leaders and governmental institutions. This frustration and disappointment has erupted into protests across the globe both on the streets and on the internet. Added to the issue of corruption is the year-long battle that people and governments have had to wage with the more threatening COVID-19, which in itself is also embroiled in political and ideological controversies of its own. Even as I type this article, Thailand is caught up in anti-government protests, France is trying to salvage its anti-terrorism commitment against the widespread “boycott France” movement, there is high tension in the Middle-East, and the United States is facing a nation-wide concern of voter-fraud and attempts to restore trust in democracy. The per second volume of bitterness and hatred that is spewed in tweets, comments, and media reporting worldwide is so dishearteningly very large that one inevitably asks, “Is there hope for the world?”
Let me begin by unconditionally asserting a ‘Yes’. Yes, there is hope. Doesn’t the Bible say that “anyone who is among the living has hope”? (Eccl.9:4). In fact, it is only a world without God that is a world without hope (Eph. 2:12). But, for those who believe, the God of hope fills us with all joy and peace as we trust in him, so that we may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom.15:13). True believers do not lose their joy and peace when things around go wrong. It is because the source of the joy and peace is not the world but the God of hope. This fountain of overflowing joy and peace is empowered by the Holy Spirit making them bold, unshaken, and active in the world that God has sent them into to fulfill His work. There is hope also because as the hope-bearers of God, we are the salt and light of the world.
Source of Hope
The source of hope is God and is grounded in His covenant promise. He proclaimed to His people in socio-political exile: “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope” (Jer. 29:11). The New Testament assures us that “for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom.8:28). The reason why this is so is because God Himself is the guarantor and the source of our future through Jesus Christ; and, therefore, any expectation that is grounded in His promises and confidently pursued will never be disappointed; for “hope does not put us to shame” (Rom.5:5). Now, while it is true that God is the source of the hope of resurrection and final salvation (Col.1:5,27; Tit.1:2;2:13), it is also true that, therefore, this hope has a practical outworking of purity and lovingkindness in our daily lives today bringing peace and joy not only in our lives but also in the lives of people we get in touch with (1Jn.3: 3-24). And, this is so because the “love of the Father” (1Jn.3:1) “has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us”; so, “hope does not put us to shame” (Rom.5:5) and we over flow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom.15:13).
Social and Political Hope
Biblical social hope must not be confused with socialist hope. Socialist hope revolves around activism that looks forward to a stateless, classless, and egalitarian society that realizes a utopia of economic, social, and ecological justice. Socialist hope today looks for a world where homosexuals can be proud of their homo sexuality, abortion is legal for every woman anytime, men can be more feminine in nature, religious values would be diminished, there would be equal pay for all, and there would be higher taxes on the well to do. The focus is on an egalitarian society where all differences are equalized. Biblical social hope, on the other hand focuses on freedom of conscience and a compassionate community. It anticipates a society where people can freely serve God and a community that cares for its weaker members. The Bible recommends prayer in order to achieve the former and spiritual liberality in order to fulfill the other.
Therefore I exhort first of all that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks be made for all men, for kings and all who are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and reverence. (I Timothy 2:1-2)
Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world. (James 1:27)
Biblical social hope has a dialectical expectation: we expect of God that there will be a free society in which we can freely serve God and in which there will be love rather than indifference and hatred (Isn’t there so much hatred in the world today, especially social and political?); on the other hand, God expects us to continuously and passionately pray for such a social condition to be realised and to love our neighbours as ourselves and care for the weak, thus making a difference around. It, of course, also means that we have to pray for godly, uncorrupt, and wise administrators. Consequently, there is a political hope tied into the social hope so that the latter can only be realised when the former is realised.
So to the question, is there social and political hope for the world, the answer is yes, but are you willing to pray for that hope to come true, and are you doing something about it now?