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Hope in an Unsafe World

May 18, 2021

I recently read an article in the National Post about Professor Rima Azar. She is an associate professor of health psychology at Mount Allison University. She was born in Lebanon during the horrors of a civil war. She is not a Caucasian.  She recently had made the statement that Canada is not a systemically racist country, and in so doing, spoke against the ideology of some of the popular current theories on race. In a bizarre twist, some students at Mount Allison then protested, arguing that Professor Azar and her views were creating an unsafe space at the University.

It is bizarre, for Professor Azar has lived in an unsafe place. Her fragile students have not. Eventually, as I understand it, the professor was suspended from her job.

I make mention of this, not because I wish to discuss critical race theory. Rather, I wish to discuss the increasing fragility of so much of North American culture. Yes, real abuse does exist. Yes, real racism does exist. Tragically, there are places on this continent, where it is inherently unsafe to live. But I suspect those who are quick to argue, that when they hear a viewpoint that conflicts with their own, they are inherently unsafe, are not unsafe at all. What is really occurring is that they live in a worldview that makes them increasingly fragile. They cannot tolerate dissension. And in this condition, they become inquisitors, ready to call down the powers that be to silence all opposition.

Again, I do not mention this to comment on today’s political climate. But I wish to contrast the increasing fragility of so many, to words written by the Apostle Paul, a man who was often unsafe. Remember that he had frequent dangers both from persecutors from the state, as well as the danger from robbers when he travelled, as well as dangers from false brothers. Five times, he had received the “forty lashes minus one.” He had been beaten with rods three times. He had been stoned and left for dead. In the city of Ephesus, he had been thrown into the arena and was made to fight with wild beasts.

It is this Paul that gave us the words of Romans 5:2–4:

Through Him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope…”

Paul sees that, for the believer, suffering, when it is done in hope and with the assurance of God’s providential loving designs in our lives gives rise to endurance. That is, when we have suffered in faith, we may feel shaken through the suffering, but what comes about is an unshakable ability to hang in there, come what may.

Once endurance has taken root, Paul says that our character begins to take shape. Paul says it produces character. An older translation says it produces provedness. That is, like a precious metal that has gone through the fire, all the base metals have been removed. That is, the proof now exists that the character is pure. And, character, says Paul, produces hope, for hope is founded on the promises of God.

For believers, living in an unsafe world, and suffering for our faith does not produce fragility.  The more we are in a battle for our faith, the more we are resisted and rebuked, the more deeply we trust in the promises of God. What produces fragility in some, also produces toughness in others.

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