Called to Hope

Daily Reflection / Produced by The High Calling
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There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

Ephesians 4:4

In the last couple of weeks, I've spent quite a bit of time reflecting on our calling and its implications. In fact, a friend teased me about squeezing every last drop of truth out of the idea that we are to live worthy of our calling. I take the point, but want to offer one more reflection on calling in light of verse 4. As I ponder this verse, I am struck by the surprising way it speaks of our calling: "you were called to one hope when you were called." What does it mean to be called to hope? What is this hope, and how does it make a difference in our lives?

We can answer these questions by examining related passages in Ephesians. In chapter 1, Paul prays that his readers "may know the hope to which he has called you" (1:18). This mirrors the language of Ephesians 4:4, though with the emphasis on God who calls, whereas today's passage underscores our receipt of that calling. But what is this hope to which we have been called?

If we look a bit higher on the page of Ephesians 1, we find God's ultimate plan and purpose: "to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ" (1:10). This is our hope. It's the reality of the future when God will restore all things and bring them into their intended harmony. Notice that this hope is objective more than subjective. English speakers would be apt to interpret "hope" as a feeling. We'd think, "God is calling us to be hopeful, which is to say, optimistic or positive in our outlook." But the Greek word translated as "hope" has a more substantive meaning in Ephesians. God and God's glorious future constitute our hope.

In light of this objective hope, a related kind of hope lives in us. Thus, Paul can refer to the earliest Christians as those who "were the first to put our hope in Christ" (1:12). But we mustn't see this hope as wishful thinking or optimistic feelings. Though it surely has an emotional dimension, our hope is a confident conviction, a solid assurance of what lies ahead. This kind of hope can live in us no matter what we are feeling at the moment.

So, we are called to hope, first and foremost, in the sense that God has called us to participate in the future "kingdom of Christ and of God," when all things will be unified through Christ (Eph. 5:5). Therefore, we are called to be people who live with this hope in mind, people whose lives, thoughts, relationships, and emotions are shaped by the reality that lies ahead, a reality made real to us in faith and through the work of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 1:13-14).

In a world filled with dire and desperate situations, with discouragement and despair, we are called to be people of hope. Through our words and through our works, we reflect and offer the hope of our calling, a hope of a world transformed through Christ.

QUESTIONS FOR FURTHER REFLECTION: Would you say that you are a hopeful person? Why or why not? What does this mean to you? Do you live intentionally and consciously in light of God's glorious future? If so, what difference does this make in your life? If not, what might help you to live out the hope of your calling?

PRAYER: Thank you, Gracious God, for the future that lies ahead. Thank you for the restoration that is coming, when you unite all things in Christ. Thank you for the privilege of knowing what is coming and beginning to experience the future even now. Thank you for calling me to your hope and to live as a person of hope.

Help me, Lord, to have a genuine hope, a hope that centers in you and your work. Keep me from superficial positivity that is based in emotional enthusiasm. Instead, may my hope be in you and the certainty of your future. May I live today and tomorrow and the next day as someone who has been called to hope. As I do, may I be an agent of your hope in the world. To you be all the glory! Amen.

Image courtesy of Laity Lodge, one of our sister programs in the Foundations for Laity Renewal.