Summary: The shape of hope is not wishful or positive thinking, but rather action
Romans 8:12-25 “The Shape of Hope”
Some of the greatest Christian hymns are songs of hope: “My Hope Is Built on Nothing Less,” “Rock of Ages,” “Oh God, Our Help in Ages Past,” and many more. Christians are a people of hope. But, we don’t hope is just anything. We hope in a specific something.
Paul switches his attention from freedom to hope in the second half of chapter eight. He reminds his readers and those of us who come later what is at the center of our hope. The hope that we have as Christians is a hope that can withstand persecutions, natural disasters, personal tragedies, and economic downturns, and a score of gloomy days. Our hope is a hope focused on a relationship.
Paul first writes that we have received the spirit of adoption. We can legitimately identify ourselves as Children of God—members of God’s family.
I remember when I was very young, perhaps only six years-old, my parents took me to a dog kennel in order to pick out a puppy. The choice was all mine. I looked across a rolling sea of puppies and one particular puppy caught my eye. I can’t tell you why I was attracted to that specific puppy, but I can tell you from the moment I spotted that puppy, that puppy was mine. I would not be satisfied with any others.
At our baptism, we celebrate that we are being adopted by our Lord. In a similar manner to Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit descends upon us and God declares, “This is my son (or daughter) in whom I am well pleased.
We don’t know why the Lord picks us. It certainly isn’t because our individual qualities and characteristics set us apart from everyone else. All humankind is on equal footing. We stand before God and each other as sinners in need of a savior, and as talented, yet broken people in need of healing. We can only say that God wills to adopt us as his own.
Paul instructs his readers to celebrate this truth—that they have been adopted into God’s family—and to allow that truth to be the seed of their hope. We may do this with a prayer of thanks at the beginning of our day. Many people make the sign of the cross on themselves in order to remind themselves that they have been baptized, that they are God’s children and that they live in hope. During our times of worship, the Lord’s Prayer, Apostles’ Creed and Holy Communion remind us and enable us to celebrate the truth that we are God’s children.
A CLOSE RELATIONSHIP
Paul goes on to write that our adoption as children of God enables us to cry, “Abba, Father.” This is a shocking statement. No other faith tradition addresses their “God” with such a term of familiarity—Daddy, or Pops.”
The truth of Paul’s statement is mind boggling. The creator of the universe, and the God of our salvation, allows us to address him as Dad. This personal, intimate relationship is something that is celebrated over and over again in the scriptures.