Observing The Festival of All Saints

I was challenged this week, through the work of political philosopher Hannah Arendt, to con-
sider hope as something that is negative to people because it is a fundamentally passive

thing where one looks to the future for some sort of help and renders the person helpless and
thus less inclined or even incapable of acting against injustice and evil. When things are ‘bad’
people are fearful of action (especially resistance) because of the possible consequences

and look to the future with hope and become para-
lysed into inaction – which makes matters worse.

The Polish writer Tadeusz Borowski, in ‘This Way for

the Gas, Ladies and Gentlemen’, wrote after his expe-
riences in Auschwitz and Dachau: “Never before in

the history of mankind has hope been stronger than
man, but never also has it done so much harm as it
has in this war, in this concentration camp. We were
never taught how to give up hope, and this is why
today we perish in gas chambers.”
Hope is the comforter of those with resources but if
you have nothing and are ruined, then you will see
how hopeless is hope were the sentiments of the 5th Century BC historian, Thucydides. And
by the end of the article, I was, as I said, challenged by this perspective on hope.
Challenged because I could sense that there was truth here and I understood the logic in the

argument but challenged also because spiritually, I disagreed that hope is something funda-
mentally passive – the optimism that hopes for someone else to rescue me or somehow

make things better. I recalled the European Lutheran Conference earlier this year ‘Sharing
Hope in Times of Fear’ (which I wrote about on 6th June) and which also wrestled with hope.
And I recalled what the Apostle Paul wrote to the Romans: 1

Therefore, since we have been

justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2

Through him we
have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope
of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering
produces endurance, 4

and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5
and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. (Romans 5:1-5 ESV)
I would like an easy life like everyone else. If there’s a problem, yes, a quick fix would be
nice. Perhaps I do ‘wait on the Lord’ more than I should and put off something I should do
today – who can tell? – and I am certainly not living through what Borowski went through but
my view about living with Jesus is that I am not absolved of my responsibility to live, to act, to
serve those around me, to be accountable – precisely because I have hope! Christian hope
secures my future in Christ (because he has secured it) and because it is secure, I then can
face the day empowered to act.
And there will come a time and All Saints’ Day is a reminder that one day – unless Jesus

reappears first – it will be my name that is read out – and that even in those moments of dy-
ing I can have hope – again my future is secure so hopefully the fear and physicality of dying
will be ‘calm’ because I will still be living (!) and wanting to serve those around me even then.
How? I’ve no idea! But I have hope and hope is fundamentally activity – God’s first for me
and me second for those around me. GS