‘Do not fear their fear, and do not be intimidated, but in your hearts sanctify Christ as Lord. Always be ready to make your defence to anyone who demands from you an accounting for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and reverence.’ 1 Peter 3:14b-16a
As human beings our desires are stimulated and determined by the desires of others. Advertisers know this well, using gleaming, attractive and desirable projections of people to promote their product, creating within us an unconscious desire for what is being advertised; we want what they want because they look wonderful.
Our desires are a result of imitation, for as human beings we are by nature a people of imitation, learning from the day we are born (and before) through the act of imitation. Apple has not sold 1 billion iPhones worldwide because it is necessarily the best phone, but because desire is learnt through imitation, and so the mass desire creates desire in others, and you end up with queues in various cities around the world when the new iPhone is released.
Desire happens from an early age. Take for instance when a toddler plays with a toy, and how quickly another toddler will desire that same toy, not because of the toy, but because of the desire of the other toddler. Of course all this is happening unconsciously, and yet, because of our innate desire to imitate others (and neuroscientists have discovered ‘mirror neurons’ in our brains), our lives are formed through imitation and the desires of others.
Now what does any of this have to do with hope?
In these verses of Scripture above we are being encouraged to resist the desires of others, and to be shaped in our lives according the Lordship of Jesus.
‘Do not fear their fear…’
There is positive imitation (or mimesis as René Girard called it) and negative imitation (mimetic rivalry), and our desires can often be determined by mimetic rivalry, desires born out of fear; fear that we are missing out, fear that we will (never) be like ‘them’, fear that our lives will not be as they should be. Fear is a great motivator, (c.f Exodus 33:1-6, an episode where the Israelites fear God’s wrath and so obey), and highly contagious, spreading rapidly and without regard. This kind of fear leads to sacred violence and scapegoating; look at the political scene on the West. We find someone else’s fear can motivate and determine our fears, and it is always detrimental to a life lived in relationship with the Trinitarian Life; perfect love casts out fear. (1 John 4:18)
The urge then, according to the Scriptures above, is for our desires not to be shaped by the desires of others, but for our lives to be shaped by the Lordship and desire of Jesus. We are called to imitate Christ, (Matthew 16:24) the True Human as Walter Wink described.
Hope then, is not our desires. Hope is not wishful thinking.
The hope that is within is a hope that comes from God, not from ourselves. Our desires are determined according to that and those which we imitate, whereas truthful hope springs forth from the Life and Love of God, a gift given by the Spirit, an imitation of the life of Jesus. It is a hope that is not determined by the whims and wishes of our culture, our mood or our circumstances, but a hope that flows from God, the One who is not bound by necessity or the desires of others, whose promises of hope emerge from the place of Christ’s supremacy, from ‘all things’ being held together ‘in him’. This is a truthful hope that emerges from the Crucified God who ‘was pleased to reconcile to himself all things’, (Colossians 1:15-20) and is therefore a hope beyond us and our abilities and dreams and desires, but given as a gift to us, within us and without us.
This is a hope that is given to us in gentleness by the God of unconditionality, and so we speak of it and share it with the same spirit, and yet with confidence, a confidence that recognises the supremacy and Lordship of Jesus Christ – a supremacy and Lordship not of violence or coercion, but one of invitation, nonviolence , forgiveness and peace – hearts and lives determined, we pray, by the desire of God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit.