Monday, June 1, 2015

The great hope and the small hopes

". . . Christian hope is a present being in and with and by the promise of the future. But in the one hope there will always be inseparably the great hope and also a small hope. All through temporal life there will be the expectation of eternal life. But there will also be its expectation in this temporal life. There will be confidence in the One who comes as the end and new beginning of all things. There will also be confidence in His appearing within the ordinary course of things as they still move towards that end and new beginning. There is a joy in anticipation of the perfect service of God which awaits man when God is all in all. But in this joy there is also a joy and zest for the service which to-day or to-morrow can be our transitory future. . . .
". . . He, the content of the promise and the object of hope, cannot be replaced by any other. If there is also a small hope for to-day and to-morrow, if there are also temporal, penultimate, provisional and detailed hopes for the immediate future, it is only because He is the future One who shows Himself in every future; it is only in the framework and setting, in the power and the patience of the great and comprehensive hope which is present to man in Him. It is He alone in His futurity, and to that extent as the One who is beyond, who gives hope to the present, the life of man in this world, where otherwise there is no hope. The small hopes are only for the sake of the great hope from which they derive. The provisional promise is only in the light and power of the final promise. If the latter is weak, the former cannot possibly be strong. If the latter perishes, the former will perish with it. If man does not seriously wait for Jesus Christ, at bottom he will not wait for anything else. Daily hope can persist only where in basis and essence it is itself eternal hope.
     "But the converse must also be perceived and stated. Christian hope is a present being in and with and by the promise of the future, a being which is seized by the promise of God and called. If a man does not seize this hope, apprehend it, conform himself to it here and now as a man who belongs to the future, he is not one who has Christian hope. Rather, it will be revealed that he does not genuinely hope for the perfection and wholeness of His being in the service of God, for eternal life in its futurity, that he does not wait for Jesus Christ as the coming One. If he waits for Him here and now, then the here and now cease to be futureless. He looks for Him, the coming One, to-day and to-morrow, that is, in the decisions in which he has to live to-day and to-morrow as long as time and space are given him. He does not make them without direction or into a future which is empty, but in obedience to his calling, towards that future promised him by God by which the future of to-day and to-morrow is surrounded and lit up, in the light of which every temporal, provisional, penultimate, detailed future necessarily becomes a sign and summons, a detailed and therefore a concrete call to advance which he can only observe and obey. Where there is the great hope, necessarily there are small hopes for the immediate future. These hopes have their basis and strength only in the great hope. They are small, relative and conditioned. In their detailed content they may be mistaken and open to correction. But within these limits they are genuine hopes. And it is certainly in these many little hopes that the Christian lives from day to day if he really lives in the great hope. And perhaps he is most clearly distinguished from the non-Christian by the fact that, directed to the great hope, and without any illusions, he does not fail and is never weary to live daily in these little hopes. But this necessarily means that he is daily willing and ready for the small and provisional and imperfect service of God which the immediate future will demand of him because a great and final and perfect being in the service of God is the future of the world and all men, and therefore his future also."

     Karl Barth, CD IV/1, trans. G. W. Bromiley, § 58.2 ("The being of man in Jesus Christ"), pp. 120-122 = KD IV/1, pp. 131-133.

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