Deliverance from fear and a desire for revenge

Published November 1, 2001

Years ago a great teacher told me that there were three different ways of guessing the future.

First, straight ahead: the future will be just like today, only more so. The tendencies of today will be stronger and more dominant.

Second, history embodies a pendulum: when our age has gone as far as possible in one direction, there will be a corrective swing in the other direction.

Third, a random event takes place, which will determine the time ahead.

I remember the random event of the 1980s, when Mikhail Sergeyevich Gorbachev changed our history by unexpectedly changing the direction of Soviet policy in ways that not only ended the Cold War but also unintentionally destroyed both the Soviet Union and the living standards of Russian people.

And we now face a random event in our own days – Sept.11, a date we will never forget.

Where can I turn?

In the pressure period between the horrifying pictures of the day itself and attending a memorial service for the son of a priest who was a colleague in Ottawa diocese many years ago, the words from the Book of Common Prayer funeral office kept coming back to me, “make us ? deeply sensible of the shortness and uncertainty of human life.”

That day had certainly made us aware, but then what? The prayer goes on to ask that we ourselves may die “in the comfort of a reasonable, religious and holy hope.”

We hear that since Sept.11 many people don’t want to fly. To do my job, I have to fly and so I do. Why? Because I have a reasonable, religious and holy hope.

“Reasonable hope.” Sometimes we speak of a reasonable chance, meaning something that is fairly probable. But Christians speak of our hope as “reasonable,” not because it is grounded in probability, but in rationality. We know that Jesus has conquered death, and our hope is grounded in that knowledge, rooted in reason.

“Religious hope.” Our hope is grounded in our faith in God’s will that we may have life and may have it more abundantly. Jesus said that he came for that purpose, and our religious life is based not just on that assertion, but also on the way it came to pass in his death and resurrection.

“Holy hope.” My hope is not dependent on proof that God will preserve me from every difficulty that will come my way. It is a hope based on the faith that God will bring the world he loves through the terrors that some of his creatures visit upon it, not that God will single me out to shelter me from every risk in this life.

Those words deliver me from fear – not just fears of flying, but fears of living and fears for the generations after me.

They deliver me from desire for revenge. The God of resurrection is a God of life, and has already judged the slaughterers of the innocent.

They deliver me from the kind of hatred that will push me to judging others in a way that assumes that they are worthless in the sight of God, that says that God cares only for the abundance of my life, not of theirs.

And they move me towards the next words of the prayer, that I may die “in favour with thee our God, and in perfect charity with all.”

The people who press for war are not keen on words like “favour” and “charity.” But they are at the root of “reasonable, religious and holy hope,” and I’m sticking with them. Michael Peers is primate of the Anglican Church of Canada.


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