(Prepared for a sermon based on Acts 28:17-23)
When our children were in High School we noticed a curious thing. Just about all of the literature they were required to read in their English classes was bleak and depressing. It managed to convey the message that there isn’t much to look forward to and life really isn’t worth living. It was so bad that one of the students wrote an article about it in the school paper. He pointed out that instead of instilling a love for literature in the students, the stuff which was forced on them was actually teaching them to hate reading. He pled with the teachers to add something wholesome, pleasant and uplifting (not to mention, fun to read) to the curriculum.
Unfortunately, that type of literature isn’t confined to the English Department. In recent years I’ve noticed that a great many of the books which are published are dystopian. They paint a very dark future where people are worse off than they are now. The virtues such as honor, fidelity and and kindness are missing or are portrayed as weaknesses. Heroism is scorned. Mankind is awful, has ruined the earth and things are only going to get worse.
Other messages which fill our books and media are ones of scarcity, automation taking away jobs, the loss of individual liberty and increase in totalitarian government control. When we’re exposed to a steady diet of such ideas, it can become very depressing. I would not be at all surprised if there is a direct correlation between the pessimistic literature of our times and the increase in the suicide rates we’re seeing. After all, if there isn’t anything worth living for, then why not end it all? Others go the opposite direction and try to find meaning in pleasure and things, only to discover that this does not satisfy either.
However, the truth is that it doesn’t have to be that way. Our literature and media lies. The only reason to despair is when we take God out of the picture. When we realize that God not only exists, but that He loves us, then the future is not bleak at all. We can have hope no matter how dark it appears to those who deny Him. Yes, mankind’s condition (at least without God) is pretty bleak. But God loves us so much that He gives us the opportunity of redemption. He gives us hope.
One of the reasons we come together each week is to encourage one another and remind each other of the hope we have. The Apostle Paul writes, “At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.” (Titus 3:3-7 NIV)
When we’re constantly being bombarded with messages of nihilism and despair, we need to remember the hope we have because Christ saved us. Christ sacrificed Himself for us so that we could be re-born and renewed. That’s why we eat the bread which reminds us of Christ’s body which He sacrificed for us. That’s why we drink the cup which reminds us of Christ’s blood which cleanses us from sin.
Today as we eat and drink, let’s give thanks for the hope we have because of God’s love and Jesus’ sacrifice.