Saturday, November 6, 2010

Charity Hopeth All Things

My New Year's Resolution this month is to "hope more things" - taken, like the rest of my monthly resolutions, from Paul's discourse on charity in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7.  As I almost always do the first weekend of each month, I looked up and pondered the meaning (or possible meanings) of the aspect of charity that is the focus of my effort this month - in this case, "hope".

The following definitions are very similar, but I want to combine them into one comprehensive definition for the beginning of this month's contemplation:
–verb (used with object) look forward to with desire and reasonable confidence. believe, desire, or trust. 
–verb (used without object) feel that something desired may happen. 
4.Archaic. to place trust; rely (usually fol. by in). 
The verse in question uses "hope" as a verb with an object ("all things"), so #1 and #2 are the most precise definitions for that verse - but I want to include #4, as well, specifically because the phrase / concept "hope in Christ" is so common to us.  Also, in the context of the overall passage, I think it is important to incorporate last month's resolution focus ("charity believeth all things"), which I am going to translate as it is listed later in the chapter as the "faith" that precedes hope.  Therefore, the definition I am proposing for my resolution this month translates the original phrase into:

Charity believes, desires and trusts, with reasonable confidence, all things - through its trust in and reliance on the promises of God (expressed as faith in Jesus, the Christ).  

I believe that distinction is critical for ME, personally, since my hope really is centered on what I believe to be the Gospel of Jesus Christ - the "Good News" he taught and lived as a replacement for the "Old News" prior to his life, ministry and death.  (I understand that such will not be the case for all people, but it is important for my own personal resolution.)  In my subsequent posts this month, I will focus on some of what I believe are the most important things for or in which I hope - but, as I did with the idea of "believing all things", I want to start by mentioning explicitly and directly that the idea of hoping ALL things is founded on the belief that we are open to a recognition and acceptance of all things.  It implies quite strongly that we must be open-minded enough to avoid NOT HOPING something out of hand, especially simply because we don't understand it or think it is impossible.  After all, there's no real power in hoping for the obvious or bland or mundane.  The "tricky" part of this definition is the part about "reasonable confidence" - since that is an individual, variable standard.

I also want to make one more observation that I believe is not as obvious upon first reading - but which I believe also is critical to the central concept of hoping all things: 

If we "hope" all things, of necessity we cannot "know" all things.  The entire orientation of believing and hoping all things rests irrevocably on the foundation of recognizing there are some things we simply don't know - both conceptually (believing) and practically (hoping).  It's easy to say we only believe and hope things until we know them, and I cannot and will not dispute that basic construct.  However, there is a strong thread throughout 1 Corinthians 13 of realizing that we do not now and never will understand "all things" fully - that, until the very end, when all is "perfect" (complete, whole, fully developed), there will remain at least some things that we will "see through a glass, darkly".  There might be individual exceptions to this rule, but I believe I am not one of them - and, therefore, it is important for me to make that point up-front and at the beginning of the month.

Also, I believe we cannot "know" something in practical terms until we have experienced it.  Much of my "hope" is in things that I will not experience until after I die - and I have no expectation that I will one of the very few in our recorded history to have experiences that will enable me to say I know through my own experiences about those particular things.

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