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Hope as a helmet

An Advent devotion on hope

“But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation.” –1 Thessalonians 5:8 (NASB)

As a child growing up in the 1970s in Wichita Falls, Texas, I was a huge fan of the Dallas Cowboys football team, coached by a man dressed to the nines on the sidelines, replete with a top hat – Tom Landry.

Aware of my affection for the Cowboys, my parents gave me the best Christmas present imaginable – a Dallas Cowboys football helmet. Years later, I still vividly recall traipsing around our fenced-in backyard with that helmet on my head, a football in my hand and my dog by my side.

Hope is "faith on tiptoes"

In one of his earliest surviving letters, Paul imagines and speaks of the hope of salvation as a helmet (1 Thessalonians 5:8). Hope, which may be thought of as “faith on tiptoes” or as the “forward thrust of trust,” is a recurring theme in 1 Thessalonians (note 1:3; 2:19; 4:13; 5:8).

Indeed, the only Pauline letter where the term “hope” (Greek elpis) appears more frequently is in the apostle’s expansive epistle to Roman Christians. In both 1 Thessalonians 1:3 and 1 Thessalonians 5:8, “hope” is paired with “faith” and “love.” Interestingly and instructively, Paul places “hope” last among the three-fold list in both verses (compare 1 Corinthians 13:13). Arguably, the Thessalonian Christ-followers stood most in need of hope, even as Corinthian believers found themselves most in need of love.

Jesus brought an infusion of hope

While Christians of all generations need an ample, if not equal, supply of faith, love and hope, one can be forgiven for thinking that contemporary Christ-followers, not least amid a pandemic and an increasingly polarized society that all too readily indulges in polemic, could use an influx and infusion of hope – the kind of hope that comes from knowing, following and trusting in Christ. The kind of hope Jesus brought, brings and will bring. The kind of hope one can wear like a hoped-for helmet.

Written by Rev. Dr. Todd D., a native Texan and a graduate of Baylor University, Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and the University of Glasgow, Scotland. He serves as the Charles J. and Eleanor McLerran DeLancey Dean and William M. Hinson Professor of Christian Scriptures at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary.

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