Wednesday, January 16, 2008

On Hope

In the mounting climax of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, Samwise Gamgee and Frodo Baggins are caught in a physical and emotional maelstrom as they realize that their quest has been completed at the expense of their own lives. The reactions of our heroes provide a startling contrast. Frodo has resolved himself to death; he announces a final appreciation of Sam’s friendship and loyalty. Sam, however, feels only joy at witnessing Frodo’s restoration. He quickly asserts:
“Yes, I am with you, Master,’ said Sam, laying Frodo’s wounded hand gently to his breast. “And you’re with me. And the journey’s finished. But after coming all that way I don’t want to give up yet. It’s not like me, somehow, if you understand.”
“Maybe not Sam,” said Frodo; “but its like things are in the world. Hopes fail.” (Tolkien, Return, 231).

Yet Sam’s hope has not failed. Rolland Hein reminds readers that there is in Tolkien’s legendarium an “overarching Power whose purposes will not fail” (Hein, Mythmakers, 208). This transcendent guidance is especially noted in the early exposition of The Fellowship of the Ring when Gandalf assures Frodo that he is meant by this Higher Power to possess the Ring. Sam has seized some understanding of this truth and has taken it a step further than Frodo—he believes in a grand conclusion to his existence based on divine orchestration.
Sam portrays aspects of the Christian’s future hope in eventual glory. Paul reflects on a powerful eschatological assurance in his Epistle to the Romans. The Christian’s hope is on the bases of his or her justification by faith through the resurrection of Christ. Hope is the Christian’s anticipation of ultimate salvation; a state which will not be fully realized until the redemption of our bodies (Romans 5:2-5). Our hope of glory is rooted in the promise of our future resurrection and eternal life.
The context for this hope is found in the midst of suffering (Romans 8:18-39). Like Sam, we are to endure our present struggles. Paul is not suggesting an escapist’s ignorance of real life. Instead, we wrestle through life with a deep assurance that our stories will end with what we have been promised through Christ’s resurrection. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28; NASB).” Christians find this hope in the promise of the Gospel. It is rooted subjectively in the historical resurrection of Christ and objectively in the power of the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life. Douglas J. Moo concludes that Paul sees hope as an essential element for what it means to be a Christian. We are believers who exist in the tension of the “already, but not yet” of our glorification. “We are a people who are always looking forward to what is yet to come.” (Moo, Romans, 139)
Paul’s instructions, like Sam’s honorable example, bring with their inspiration a piercing challenge: Do we endure hardships with joy, hoping in what we see not? With faith, we can pray for the day when we will still have hope in the midst of sorrows. Our eyes will stray, like Sam’s, to where the “sky far off was clear, as the cold blast, rising to a gale, drove back the darkness and the ruin of the clouds.” (Tolkien, 232) In a way, we are better equipped than Sam to look through our present sufferings towards an ultimate closure to our life’s journey.

The Scarlet Monk

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Will post soon!

I'm going to be working on my Contemporary Application assignment this weekend. I'm hoping on writing on the concept of Hope as it appears in Romans 8. I hope to relate it primarily to the Lord of the Rings and the character of Frodo and Samwise. I'm looking foward to hearing your thoughts once it is completed!

Until then,

The Scarlet Monk