Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. . . . Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. . . .
— Romans 12:9-12
The people I’ve met who live in poverty have needed many different things: housing, new skills, friendship, advocacy. And the one thing they have all needed is hope, the sense that life is still full of possibilities. Hope convicts us that the world-as-it-is is not the world-as-it-can-be. Christians are above all a people of hope—and this does not refer to wishful thinking or naïve optimism but hope as “resurrection thinking and living.” In Jesus Christ, God has assured us that the future is open to God’s grace.
St. Augustine said that hope has two daughters: “Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” Because God desires shalom for the whole creation, we are right to be angry at poverty and all that interferes with shalom. “Hate what is evil,” says Paul. Indifference or apathy about injustice, oppression, and the suffering of others cannot produce hope.
But anger by itself cannot bring positive change. Anger at evil must be accompanied by courage to act in ways that overcome evil. Paul describes that hopeful courage as consisting of patience, sharing both joys and sorrows, showing hospitality, bearing each other’s burdens, and more.
Some of the poorest folks I have met are also the most hopeful. They are wise enough to hate evil and determined enough to face each day with courage. Theirs will be the kingdom of heaven.
Lord, teach me to long for a world of justice and peace, and use me to do your will. Amen.