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Faith, Hope, and Love: Ruminations on Restoration

By Michael S. Chen

The Whole Gospel Blog | March 21, 2016

“No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground;
he comes to make his blessings flow
far as the curse is found.”
—Isaac Watts

Heaven is not my home. Neither is it your home. Heaven is not the final destination for Christians.

Our hope is in a God who moves toward His creation to reconcile heaven and earth. In Christ, God has inaugurated this new reality and has demonstrated that He will be faithful to complete what He has started in His Son—the firstborn of this new creation. If we are able to see this new reality breaking through in the topography of a person, perhaps we can perceive this coming Kingdom in our work, our families, and our relationships as well.

I was initially shocked when I first heard that our eternal resting place would not be disembodied and spiritual, but rather physical, holistic, and complete.

As I began to understand the trajectory of the Biblical story, it made sense. In the garden, God, the creative source of everything we see, walked with His people, yet He did not dwell with them. The movement to dwell in the tabernacle and the temple looks back to the garden, but it also anticipates a future in which God will be present with His people, in a world where terror and suffering have no place. His presence in this new reality will heal all the earthly distinctions we make that have produced bitter fruit, and we will experience the fullness of God’s glory in all of creation.

We will experience redemption as far as the curse is found—meaning that every square inch of creation is waiting to be liberated, that it may sing and testify to God’s saving work in Jesus Christ.

One person alone cannot bear the image of God in the world; it is through the visible communion of God’s people in unity and holiness that we witness to this new reality.

A few practical implications on faith, hope, love, and the kind of people we need to be in order to see the kind of world we want to live in:

1. Faith
Christ through his Resurrection is the first fruit of the new creation, and we can see the pattern of His life unfolding in every sphere of life, producing justice, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Because I believe in Jesus, I believe that the fullness of redemption will be a new creation—not free from scars, but more glorious because of them.

No matter how bleak the situation for urban education, politics, or health care, faith in Christ is the basis of our union with Him and grounds us in the reality of God’s righteousness and power to restore all things. He is faithful to His promises, has triumphed over death, and will bring to a glorious completion what He started in Jesus’ death and resurrection. Yet because the Kingdom is beyond our own efforts, our faith must be nourished by hope.

2. Hope
Given our world, in which violence, oppression, and suffering is so commonplace, it is easy to understand how we give into despair. Where is God? And why doesn’t He seem to answer my questions? This is a great mystery to be sure. One thing I know is that, given a stressful situation, we want answers more than we want God Himself.

Hope is the active cultivation of patience in light of despair. Even more, hope is not an abstract proposition, but became personal and intimate. The resurrection of Jesus shows us that our ultimate hope is a Person. Hope walked among us and now calls us to be a hopeful presence for one another, patient and expectant for what the Spirit is birthing, practicing a broken-hearted listening as the foundation for social action. The tallest trees in the world anchor themselves by joining their roots with neighboring trees. We must be that connected to sustain our hope in God’s future.

3. Love
Jesus said that the world will know his disciples by their love. Yet we want to be known for so many different things. One pastor said that our lives are “sermons in shoes.” We demonstrate our understanding of the Kingdom and the end to which we were created by our persistent pursuit of justice in the world, because justice is love made visible. Whether it is racial justice, economic justice, or various forms of social justice, do we live with renewed hearts and imaginations, pursuing resurrected relationships in every area of our existence?

Feeling overwhelmed? Start with what God has entrusted to you. Love deeply and from the heart. Speak up for those who have no voice. Affirm the goodness you see in others every day, even if you get nothing in return. Paul in Galatians says that what matters most is faith expressing itself in love. If we are not expressing faith through love, we are expressing something else; most likely our preferences or priorities.

Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures until He comes to redeem all things.

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Michael Chen serves the CCO as Director of Cross-Cultural Ministry. He first joined CCO staff to reach out to students at the University of Pennsylvania and the University of the Sciences in Philadelphia in a partnership between the CCO and City Church.