By Susan K. Smith,
On this, the eve of the inauguration of a new president, I am reminded the Scriptures which say that the only sin which is unforgivable is blasphemy against the Holy Spirit. The words are recorded both in Matthew 12 and Mark 3. The Marcan version reads, from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible: Truly, I tell you, people will be forgiven for their utter sins and whatever blaspheme they utter, but whoever blasphemes against the Holy Spirit can never have forgiveness, but is guilty of an eternal sin – for they had said, “He has an unclean spirit.” To “blaspheme,” according to several sources, is to insult or show contempt or reverence toward God.
I thought of the words of Carlos Quijano, who was a Uruguayan lawyer, politician, essayist and journalist, who said, “sins against hope are the only sins beyond forgiveness and redemption.”
Sin, we are taught, is anything that separates us from God, which means that hopelessness …is a sin. God…is hope, and hope resides in God. Without God, there is no hope. To reject God is to choose to rest and reside in hopelessness. When we give up, we are essentially saying that Hope, which is God, is not real; that situations and circumstances are greater than God.
Evil parades itself as all-powerful. In this political season, it feels like evil has won, and let’s say evil can and does have periodic victories. But evil is not greater than God, and it is we who believe in God who have to walk in hope, to breathe in hope, and to trust in hope – all of which is to walk, breathe and trust in God – who have the responsibility to do so.
In times of apparent hopelessness, we are called upon to seek “eyes that see” the hope, power and presence of God. It is easy to “see” when evil rests, but far more difficult when evil rises up – and evil always does rise up. Evil is in competition for our souls. Evil wants us to sink into despair. Evil wants us to sit in darkness and not believe in the light.
But if we have eyes that see, we are able to see how evil works. It comes to us, regularly …but it also regularly passes on. Psalm 30 says, “weeping endures for a night, but joy comes in the morning.” I always add, “…and morning always comes.”
Nelson Mandela asked that our choices reflect our hopes and not our fears. He said “Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.” Fannie Lou Hamer lived in hope; she believed that one day …the evil of racism would be superseded by justice – not just in Mississippi but all over the world.
We are called to hope. We are called to believe in what we cannot see and believe that, even after we are gone, the work we have done will reap results. What we are not allowed to do is to weep and mourn to the point of inaction. Injustice and evil want to manipulate our spirits and steal our joy. Hope demands that we have “irrational joy” even as we trudge through the muddy terrain of injustice and hatred.
It feels like all of the lights so many worked to turn on are being turned off, or are in danger of being turned off. When we think of all the work that we did in the name of justice, our spirits sink, but this thing called hope is our medicine. It is our spiritual castor oil, powerful enough to get through spirits clogged with despair. To do anything less is to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit, to show contempt and irreverence for God.
It is now that we must sing louder and pray more fervently, even as we work…and even weep. This is not the time to doubt the power of hope, and it is now that we must remember that weeping and evil and turmoil come, but are temporary, that they bring the darkness of night into our lives, but that joy comes in the morning …and morning always comes.
Amen and amen.