Inflation. COVID-19. Ballooning federal debt made worse by irresponsible spending in Congress. Lost jobs from medically coercive mandates. A supply chain crisis. Racist and sexually explicit narratives flooding public schools while concerned parents are targeted as terrorists. A heartbreakingly botched withdrawal from Afghanistan. An aggressive dictatorship in China that perpetuates horrific human rights abuses. A border crisis.
Conservatives pride ourselves on our ability to see the world without the rose-tinted lenses of progressives. If men were angels, we would need no government (or government accountability), we say — but men are no angels and thus we must be skeptics.
That candid recognition of our world’s imperfection often leaves us discouraged. We are frustrated that so many naively buy the blatant lies of the corporate press and corrupt politicians, and that even basic truths like “don’t kill babies” and “boys and girls are different” meet vicious opposition.
Yet, unlike the utopian dreams of the globalist left, our goal is not and has never been the perfection of the system. Conservatives should not hope to “fix” the world — nor be despondent when it proves unfixable. While we should seek to cultivate and steward our culture and our communities, our inability to shut off the fire hose of foolishness, evil, and sin in our world today should remind us we await another one.
We Are Made to Long for the Eternal
The Advent season is a time to recall the ancient posture of a world awaiting its savior. We recall the longing of a people who had waited 400 years for the voice of God and millennia for his promised salvation.
But there is another Advent, or arrival, to which we look. We long for the day in which we will surrender our earthly failures and enjoy the presence of a heavenly God. Far from discouraging us, the shortcomings of Earth should embolden our hope. If men were angels, neither heaven nor salvation would be necessary.
For this reason, Christians should take heart at worldly turmoil. “Rejoice that such fruitful times are in store for you, for in them you will be weaned from earth and made meet for heaven,” said the great Baptist theologian Charles Haddon Spurgeon, in an evening devotional based on Job 1:9.
“You will be delivered from clinging to the present, and made to long for those eternal things which are so soon to be revealed to you,” he continues. “When you feel that as regards the present you do serve God for nought, you will then rejoice in the infinite reward of the future.”
Meanwhile, rather than withdraw from a hopeless world, Spurgeon threw himself into practical ministries as well as evangelical ones, founding an orphanage in 1867 and speaking out against the injustice of slavery. Evil in the world should not send Christians into resigned indifference — we are called to “do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.”
We Engage the Present Because of Our Future Hope
In today’s America, that calling might mean fighting to keep schoolchildren from being vulnerable to political agendas that push sexually explicit material in the classroom and allow rapists access to girls. It can mean speaking up for people like Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman whose livelihoods are targeted for their religious convictions, or fighting for the safety of women in prisons and shelters. It certainly means pleading the cause of the unborn.
Not all of the means by which we as Christians should seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly are political, of course. But our hope of heaven itself should not dissuade us from stewardship of our communities. We are not of the world, but we are in it.
As we anticipate Advent, our posture is one of hope. But — although church traditions vary — in one common symbolism, hope is only one of four virtues signified by the four candles lit each Sunday of the Advent season. Peace, love, and joy mark the other three, and we are called to live these out in the present even as we look with anticipation to heaven.
Because we have hope, we are to love those around us in a way that demands no return. Because we have hope, we may have peace with even dismal circumstances. Because we have hope, we can look upon a fallen world and know the fullness of joy.
God “wants [men] to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present,” C.S. Lewis said through his character Screwtape. “For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity. Of the present moment, and of it only, humans have an experience analogous to the experience which [God] has of reality as a whole; in it alone freedom and actuality are offered to them.”
Because of the future Advent we long for, we are not just free but emboldened with confidence, even commanded, to engage the present. We run a race, but we do not run aimlessly, or box as one beating the air. Neither need we grieve as those who have no hope.