One of the glorious things in our religion is the preeminence it gives to hope. There is a radiant hopefulness in Christianity that is discoverable in no other faith. When the Gospel was first preached, the hopes of men were practically dead. As one of the old satirists expresses it, the world had the death-rattle in its throat. And then came the message of the Gospel, and everywhere, like the blossoming of spring, hope began to blossom in the world. As Peter puts it here, men were begotten into hope. The first effect of being born again was the awakening of hope within the heart. Like little children opening their eyes on the face of a mother bending over them, men, reborn, looked on the face of hope. Life was no longer dull and dreary and desperate. Hope touched the bitterest experiences. The song of hope sounded through the night and could not be silenced even by the grave. It is difficult for us to realize the tremendous difference that Gospel hope made in a world whose highest reach was Stoicism.
Begotten Into a Living Hope
Now the interesting thing is that here St. Peter calls that hope a living hope. And in that word living there is a wealth of importance that all our thinking never can exhaust. It implies that other hopes are dying. They grow dim and fade away and vanish. They buoy us up and lure us on, and, having accomplished that, they disappear. But though that contrast was in Peter’s mind, and in the mind of every reader of his letter, there was something far more positive than that. A living hope is a hope that answers life. It is a hope that is commensurate with life. It moves triumphant through every sphere of life in which the regenerate man may fret himself. Let life bring with it what it will in the whole range of possible experience, and the shining of the living hope is there. It is always easy to be hopeful when we see the glory of a new dawn. There are times when men are as naturally hopeful as birds are naturally musical. But to be hopeful when things are dead against us and life is cruel and not a star is shining, that is the victory which overcomes the world. A hope like that is never natural. It is something into which we are begotten. It lives in the harshest experience of life. It moves and has its being in Gethsemane. Thus it is called a living hope because it interpenetrates the whole of life and brightens even the darkness of the grave. Such was the hope of Jesus. It shone through every chamber of His being. It was radiant in the agonies of Calvary not less than among the lilies of the field. It was a hope commensurate with life in its whole expanse of suffering and sorrow—and into that living hope we are begotten.
The Certainty of Future Blessedness
Then this living hope, St. Peter tells us, is based on the certainty of future blessedness, and here we must be careful to distinguish. Very commonly, in the New Testament, heaven is set as the object of our hope. It is for that sweet country that the heart is longing; it is the hope of God’s elect as the hymn says. But sometimes as in our present passage, heaven is not the object of our hope, but the great certainty from which there springs the new-born spirit of hopefulness in life. Tell me that death ends everything and that my strivings are never to be crowned, and I may still toil and suffer on, “with head bloody but unbowed.” But tell me that a fuller life is coming when the broken arc will grow into the circle, and hope sings its music in my heart. The sea shore is a dull and dreary place when over it is nothing but the mist. But when the vault of the sunlit heaven over-arches it, the barren sand becomes a thing of beauty. And only when the mist goes and the blue of heaven is radiant over life, does glory lie on the path of our pilgrimage. Every true believer hopes for heaven. He also hopes just because of heaven. He is begotten into a living hopefulness because some day there is to be a crowning. He does not struggle on despairingly as if everything were to be cast into the void. He is the child and heir of immortality.
Because of Jesus’ Resurrection
And then St. Peter tells us that we win that hope by the rising of Jesus from the dead. We are begotten into a living hope by the resurrection of the Lord. Note that the resurrection does not give that hope, for it lies latent in the human breast. In every human heart, when we decipher it, are intimations of immortality. The thoughts that wander through eternity and the shadows that fall upon our hours of triumph and the things on board of us “not wanted for the voyage,” and the “forever” graven on the heart of love, all these are stirrings, as of a babe unborn, in the secret places of our being—all these are hints that heaven is our home. The resurrection is not a bestowal. The resurrection is a confirmation. It makes our latent hope a living hope. It brings the struggling embryo to birth. All our human yearnings are authenticated by the tremendous fact of resurrection. We are begotten into a living hope by the rising of Jesus from the dead.