Surprised by Surprised By Hope

Surprised By Hope    N.T. Wright

Having long been a fan of N. T. Wright I found myself surprised by Surprised By Hope. I fully expected to enjoy it, but found it to be one of the most inspirational books I’ve read in a long time. As I read scripture and try to apply it not only in my own life, but for those in our congregation, I find myself focusing much more on this life and how we are to live it in light of God’s Kingdom than on what happens after we die. After all, we really don’t have much control over that do we? Wright does an amazing job of connecting the resurrection of Jesus not only to our life after but also to our life during. He defines the resurrection as first fruits of what God ultimately intends to do in all of creation. Further, he encourages his readers towards a life that reflects that truth and advances God’s kingdom:

“Every act of love, gratitude and kindness; every work of art or music inspired by the love of God and delight in the beauty of his creation; every minute spent teaching a severely handicapped child to read or to walk; every act of care and nurture, of comfort and support for one’s fellow human beings and for that matter one’s fellow nonhuman creatures; and of course every prayer, all Spirit-led teaching, every deed that spreads the gospel, builds up the church, embraces and embodies holiness rather than corruption, and makes the name of Jesus honored in the world–all of this will find it’s way, through the resurrecting power of God, into the new creation that God will one day make.  That is the logic of the mission of God.” (pg. 208)

Another aspect of Surprised By Hope that I appreciated is Wright’s willingness to thoroughly explore what does happen after we die. He dispels all the floating endlessly on a cloud playing the harp theories, instead offering a compelling vision of life with and in Christ as the new heaven meets the new earth and we occupy it together with him in the new, resurrected bodies he promises us. His exposition of scripture is in depth and  answers questions that Christians often wrestle with but are rarely answered. It’s this middle section of the book that genuinely does cause hope to well up inside, I found myself looking forward to life in the new heaven and new earth as a truly fulfilling reality, not just a better alternative to this life.

Hope doesn’t end there though. It was the third and final section of Surprised that  stirred me the most. His subtitle for this section is: Hope In Practice: Resurrection And The Mission Of The Church. In it he outlines how the future affects the present, how the church today can reflect the glory God will one day complete, how we, his people can live truly Christ-like lives as heralds of hope here, now, today. “If we want a mission-shaped church what we need is a hope shaped mission.” (pg. 194) He continues to define how mission isn’t an option, an afterthought or an add-on. Mission is the purpose.

It’s God’s purpose for His people.

A compelling read, the book left me inspired and motivated to press into God’s Kingdom. It also left me very much Surprised By Hope.