Saturday, March 12, 2011
Hope and Faith
Hope and faith are easily confused, transposed, and sometimes even used as synonyms. But they are quite different things. Hope is a frame of mind, faith is a firm conviction.
Perhaps the confusion comes because they both hang by a thin thread, so thin that many are afraid to commit themselves to them. That is a shame because hope and faith are hallmarks of Christian orthodoxy. But the thread that holds faith in place is the more substantial one.
Some talk of “blind faith” but such talk is oxymoronic. Faith goes beyond “things hoped for” and becomes “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence (the seeing) of things not seen.” It aims at a reality and relies upon credible evidence.
One can live one’s life, truly hoping that some landfall from some unspecified source will bring sudden and lasting happiness and success. But to live with that kind of hope would not be productive. Mark Twain accuses his father and siblings of frittering their lives away, hoping that a chunk of land the family held title to in Indiana would accrue enough wealth to put them all on easy street. Their foolish hope was not productive of anything but lethargy. It was mere hope – life-delaying hope.
Faith, we’re told, comes by hearing, but more specifically, hearing – attending to – a credible source. Twain’s Clemmons clan had no credible reason to hope that their land had, or would ever have, value enough to put them all on “easy street.” But they had hope enough to deter them from doing the sensible things that might have helped them gain the realistic potential of the land.
Granted, it is more comfortable to be with people of hope than with people of faith. Hopeful folk are cheerful, sometimes even inanely so, even in the face of certain disaster. They often ask little of others or of themselves. They simply hope. And who doesn’t like to hang out with hopeful folks.
People of faith, on the other hand, demand agreement, urge action, insist on taking risks. Those who merely hope are an irritant to them; those who doubt, an outright drag, a harmful weight to be shucked off. Conversely, those who have no faith, or whose faith is in something/someone else, find people of faith to be uncomfortable, even dangerous, companions.
Hope, wonderful though it is, if not built on faith is a mere grasping at the wind. And faith, powerful motivator that it is, if not built on credible evidence is likely to disappoint. Indeed, faith placed in the wrong evidence – based on destructive principles, or in self-serving causes, or in manipulative leaders – can destroy lives and disrupt societies.
Two things are said to be eternal: hope and faith. (A third eternal verity is love.) God give us hope – based on faith – faith built on the credible testimony of God’s declared will for us and our world. That kind of hope will make us productive people – good people to be with – faith-full people, working urgently, but peaceably, to make a better, more hope-full, world.