What do the riots at the Capitol and the riots in the streets over the summer have in common? Both groups put their hope in the wrong place.
The summer protests were an expression of frustration and anger that law-officers were not being law-keepers. For some, the police went from being for them to be against them. The hope of many within our society that civil authorities exist to “serve and protect” was shattered when some committed injustice. The underlying hope for justice to prevail was right and good. However, some agitators rejected our civil system and put their only hope for justice in themselves. In other words, the mob would administer “social-justice.” In Seattle, this meant expelling police altogether and creating an “autonomous zone.” Since a crowd cannot deliver justice – it only acts on moment-by-moment emotional impulse; the protests devolved into riots.
The storming of the Capitol was an expression of frustration and anger that duly-elected representatives must “stop the steal.” Those who broke the law did so because they lost hope that politicians would “do the right thing” and audit the election results. If justice would not happen via legal means then they would bring justice about through their own actions. Again, since a crowd cannot deliver justice – it only acts on moment-by-moment emotional impulse; the rally devolved into storming the Capitol.
Both groups craved satisfaction in the face of what was perceived as an injustice. In other words, they put their hope in something, and when that thing was not delivered, both groups fought to bring it about in their own power.
Interesting, but what’s your point?
Bottom line: Where you put your hope will shape the decisions you make. Hope always demands two things: an expectation and an object. If a person puts their hope in an unrealistic expectation or in an object that cannot deliver then hope has been misplaced. Both the summer rioters and the insurrectionists at the Capitol did exactly this. Both groups had an expectation of wanting justice. Both groups believed their cause to be valid and right. However, both groups put hope in themselves, in brute force to realize their goal. Both groups were wrong and the resulting aftermath is a warning for us all.
How does this work in life?
The reality is that all of us put our hope in things every day. Whether small things like hoping to get to our appointment on time to big-ticket items like hope for a healthy marriage. However, when the expectation and/or object of our hope is wrong, we will revert to exerting control or manipulation to fulfill our desired result. Hope in and of itself is not wrong, but our expectation and object of our hope is the key. For example, if it takes me 45 minutes to get to work, and I leave my house 30 minutes before I am scheduled to arrive, my hope to be on time is not realistic. In other words, I should not expect to be on time because I didn’t leave my house in enough time. I cannot break the physical laws of the universe. If I expect my spouse to always be kind and gracious toward me, then my hope is misplaced. Why? The object of this expectation – my spouse, is not perfect and cannot fulfill that expectation. There must be an acceptance and accommodation of real-life realities. In the first example, I must leave the house with enough time to arrive on time for work. If I expect to arrive on time, I am acting foolishly. I need to repent (change my mind) and accept the consequences of being late and respond with humility.
In the second example, I need to embrace that conflict will be part of my marriage. When conflict does arrive, my hope is that the Lord will help both my wife and me as we seek to honor Christ in seeking to understand and love each other. Our hope is based on His promises to us in the Bible. The hope I have for my marriage is not in my wife but in the Lord. My role is to model His character and priorities flowing from gratefulness that He has saved me from my sins and will provide me all the grace needed to now walk in a trust-relationship with Him. In other words, the Gospel is the fuel for my marriage, not the worth and pleasure that I determine that my wife has through her actions toward me. I have hope that my wife will have this same perspective flowing from the truth of the Gospel. We both can have real and abiding hope that this will work because this is what He told us to do, to seek Him first for our satisfaction and wholeness (see Matthew 6:33, Ephesians 5:21). In other words, I must not put my hope in exerting personal power through manipulation toward my wife but set my aim on obeying and enjoying Christ. Indeed, continuing in this mindset will not be easy and demand that I regularly seek conformity to His will via mediation in The Word and prayer and repenting of wanting to be in control. In other words, I will need to die to my primitive desires and embrace His will and Lordship (see Luke 9:23-25). It goes without saying that I will have to fight for this perspective. However, I have been given spiritual resources that will support my hope toward this end (see Philippians 4:7)
Those people involved in both the riots during the summer and the Capital’s storming placed their hope in something that could not deliver. The riots of 2020 could not provide justice through committing injustice. The lawless violence in the Capital could not rid suspected voter suppression through suppression of the representatives voting. These are acts done by people who desperately need to see Jesus as Lord, to find their hope and satisfaction in Christ.
It could be said that there are different levels of hope – hope in the outcome(s) of the day and hope of eternity. While misplacing your hope in social issues can have consequences, misplacing your hope in eternal things would be catastrophic. Jesus identified a group of people who did just this during an interaction with Jews in Jerusalem.
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life, and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. 41 I do not receive glory from people. 42 But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. 43 I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? 45 Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope.John 5:39-45
Tragically, the Jews of Jesus’ day had placed their hope so firmly in their religious acts as demonstrated through their devotion to the Law of Moses, that they rejected Christ. Simply put, they didn’t need what Jesus offered since they were intent on being justified (made right) by obeying the Law of Moses. Jesus points out their misplaced hope and gives them an opportunity to repent (to change their mind). Being late for an appointment is frustrating. Struggles in marriage can be vexing. Rejecting Christ and hoping in something else for the forgiveness of your sins is soul-damning. I am thankful that there is still hope for those who would turn from self-saving effort to embrace Jesus as their Savior from sins and the Lord of their life.