“I prayed a lot for that job. I really needed it. I don’t know why God didn’t help. It’s hard to have faith in prayer after this.” This comment is typical of many I’ve heard. We tend to think of God as the social worker, lawyer and physician extraordinaire. The tendency isn’t new. Jesus faced it. The man healed of leprosy who returned praising God wasn’t just thankful, he was convinced that Jesus’ message of the coming Reign of God was powerful and worth his attention. The other nine had their cure and that was all they were looking for.
My point isn’t that we should stop thinking of Jesus as the problem-solver-in-chief. Most of us already know that and do our best not to fall into such thinking. The point is that when we present our faith to others either explicitly in conversation or implicitly as they observe our attitudes and behaviors, it’s important that we demonstrate our freedom to live consistently in hope of God’s Future.
All Jesus’ healings and, ultimately, God’s raising of Jesus from death were revelations given us that God is stronger than evil and will overcome evil to accomplish the good future that he has intended for creation from the beginning. It’s our faith in this power that enables us to adopt an attitude of confident hope in the face of every difficulty and failure. It is our faith in this power that enables us to live with love and justice regardless of the cost.
As a Church we talk a lot about evangelizing our world. Despite the word’s associations with buttonholing and browbeating, evangelizing makes complete sense for a Christian. The idea isn’t to convince everyone to believe and pray as we do. It’s to effectively convey the hope and freedom from ultimate emptiness that we’ve been given. The goal is to free as many people as possible to live full lives. The words that we use to convey our hope are secondary to our actions and attitudes that demonstrate it.
The gospel is about hope and freedom. If we offer people these gifts, the words will take care of themselves. Evangelizing isn’t easy. Jesus had only one leper return to hear more. Still, it’s well worth doing. Jesus never stopped.