Alcoholics Anonymous is a wonderful recovery program which was originally founded on strong Christian principles. Many chapters rigorously maintain those principles.
However, many other chapters have substituted the words “higher power” for God in the 12 steps to recovery. This “higher power” can be anything the person conceives of as being greater, stronger or more powerful than himself.
John Bradshaw, a psychologist and strong advocate for the 12 Step programs, tells the story of an atheist who joined A.A. He chose a particularly magnificent oak tree which grew on a street corner near his house as his higher power. One day, he came rushing into an A.A. meeting panic stricken and shouting, “They’re cutting down my higher power!”
As Christians, no one can cut down our higher power, but sometimes we forget that and begin to lose hope. It’s easy to do. Most of us were shocked and dismayed by the death of Matthew Shepherd in October.
What was even more shocking and dismaying was that it was not an isolated incident. A transgender woman involved in an accident died while the paramedics joked about her.
In many places people are still denied housing and employment based on religious beliefs, gender identity and sexual orientation. So, where is our hope?
Our hope is still where it always has been. It is found in Jesus Christ. The key that unlocks that hope is Faith. Hebrews 11:1 says “Faith is the substance of things hoped for.” The word translated “substance” is hupostasis. It literally means that which stands under, that which supports another, a foundation or assurance.
The foundation of our hope is faith. I don’t mean faith in faith. I don’t mean faith that something specific I want to happen will happen. I mean faith in God. I mean faith in the wisdom, goodness and power of God.
If we put our hope in anything other than God, then we will be disappointed. Jesus said that was like a man building a house on sand. When the storms came the house fell because it did not have a firm foundation. Storms will come. Bad things will happen to us, to our friends, to others facing the same difficulties as we do. If our hope is built on shifting sand, then it will fall.
If I place my hope in the hands of a politician, I will be disappointed. They are fallible human beings just like me.
If I place my hope in the hands of an organization, then I will be disappointed, because they are filled with other fallible people.
If I place my hope in legislation, then I will be disappointed, because there is always a loophole in every law.
If I place my trust in a minister, I will be disappointed, because the minister also struggles with his or her Christian walk.
If I place my trust in myself, then I will be disappointed, because I am too weak to battle the forces coming against me.
But if I put my trust in God I know that He is wise enough to know what is best, I know that He is benevolent enough to give me the best He has, and I know that He is powerful enough to do the job that needs to be done.
There is no person, no organization, no law which will never fail me, but my God never fails. He is faithful!
There is nothing wrong with working to establish laws to promote justice and equality. We need to do that. But we cannot place our personal hope in such laws. At their best they will be imperfect compromises providing partial hope. But in God, I can place my trust totally.
I am reminded of an old song of the church which goes:
My hope is built on nothing less
than Jesus’ blood and righteousness
I dare not trust the sweetest frame
But wholly lean on Jesus’ name
On Christ the solid rock I stand
All other ground is sinking sand
All other ground is sinking sand