In the movie, the Shawshank Redemption, the lead character, Andy Dufrene, befriends a lifer in prison named Red. He is a black man who actually becomes the narrator of the story. Andy, an innocent man wrongly convicted of killing his wife and her lover, becomes something of a muse to Red during their years of incarceration together. At one-point Andy says to Red: “Remember Red, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” The inference is that hope is what was keeping Andy alive and sane.
As the story progresses, Andy does escape prison. Eventually, Red also gets out of prison on parole. Andy writes to Red and he encourages him to go to a certain field in Andy’s hometown, where there is a long stone fence leading up to a single huge oak tree. There, Andy instructs him, he will find a single, shinny back rock that looks totally out of place among all the other rocks. Under it he will find something. Red does so and he finds in a small metal box an invitation from Andy to join him south of the boarder in Mexico. Instructions as to how to find him are included along with a stash of cash to enable him to get there. The movie ends with Red traveling to meet Andy on a beach on the Pacific Ocean. The final monologue is Red saying:
“I find I’m so excited that I can barely sit still or hold a thought in my head. I think it’s the excitement only a free man can feel. A free man at a start of a long journey whose conclusion is uncertain. I hope I can make it across the border. I hope to see my friend and shake his hand. I hope the Pacific is as blue as it has been in my dreams. I hope.”
Thus, the movie ends with the words “I hope” as Red walks up to Andy on the beach who is working at refurbishing a small boat… and the two friends reunite.
Hope is a vital element in our lives… as Andy says, “…maybe the best of things.” As believers we are a people of hope. The Bible has much to say about hope. But here is the thing, hope in itself is not some magic elixir that makes everything right. Lots of people have hope…in the wrong things. It is the object of our hope that makes hope viable, powerful, and necessary.
We are on the brink of another presidential election. Many of us have voted already by virtue of absentee ballots. Many more of us will trudge to the polls and cast our votes. But I’ve seen something among many evangelicals that bothers me. It is the fool’s errand of placing our hope in a political candidate, a political party, or a political process. And I find that more often than not, such hope is for particular outcomes that will better our lives or country. This is not a “bad hope”. Who does not hope for religious freedom, moral laws, protection of our privacy, financial stability, political stability, and social rest? Who among us would not want our civil freedoms to be maintained?
However, when we place our “hope” in those things…and the political process or candidate that we think will deliver them to us, we misplace our hope. After this election, one way or another, nearly half of the population in the United States will be disappointed. Some will find themselves in despair believing the defeat of their candidate will now lead to an apocalyptic and dystopian future in our country. I trust, you who are reading this, will not be among them if your candidate or party does not win.
As believers, our hope is in a sovereign God who appoints every leader that is appointed. We think people are placed in power by votes. That is only ancillary to the truth that God appoints rulers. God establishes and dethrones kings and potentates. And our hope should be in him and his Son, Jesus Christ. If it is in anything else, our hope is placed in the wrong thing. To place our hope in the outcome of an election is to become disappointed and disillusioned… even if our candidate or party wins. No candidate and no party is our savior. Jesus is our savior.
Well do I remember back in 1992 when I had just gotten to Berean, there was another election. It just so happened that an evangelist I had scheduled to be with me at Lakes during that time instead came here to Berean to fulfill this week of meetings. Election Day fell on the Tuesday of that very week. The next day, after the election, and Bill Clinton had become president, this dear brother evangelist was beside himself. He predicted chaos, upheaval, and the end of America. He could not believe a liberal like Bill Clinton could be elected. He was befuddled and incredulous. Well, while many may not have appreciated the presidency of Mr. Clinton, the world continued to turn and 28 years later, America is still standing. Is it the same America? No, it has changed and continues to change, and from my perspective, not for the better. But dire predictions of utter chaos and the persecution of Christians, have not developed. May they come at some time? Yes, but they are not here now. Conversely, back on election night in 2016 when it became apparent that Donald Trump had won, a commentator on MSNBC with every ounce of sincerity he could muster and with strained face said, “So, this is what the end of civilization looks like.” He was seriously convinced that with the election of Donald Trump, civilization would crumble. It hasn’t. Has “civility” taken a beating? Perhaps. But civilization stands.
Here is my election hope: Whatever happens, happens at the hand of a sovereign God. And because I know that my hope is in Jesus Christ, I cannot be in despair no matter what the outcome of the election might be because Jesus never changes, and he never fails us. How about you? Where will your hope lie on election night when the results come in?