Sins Against Hope
“Do not be afraid, I am with you! I am your God, let noting terrify you! I will make you strong and help you; I will protect you and save you.” – Isaiah 40:10
There are two sins that are in absolute opposition to hope; presumption and despair. As Christians we must learn to recognize these enemies of hope and to reject them whenever they rise up in our own inner worlds. We must also continue to grow in faith, wisdom and love, in order to challenge our brothers and sisters lovingly when we see these attitudes manifesting themselves in their words and actions.
Both of these sins arise from the infertile ground of an isolated ego. Though they appear to be very different, they both have their origins in the sin of pride. Presumption is the sin that looks most like pride. It is the attitude that presumes that one can save oneself without God’s help. It presumes upon God’s almighty power or his mercy, hoping to obtain his forgiveness without conversion and to gain glory without merit. Those who get caught up in this attitude continue their unjust or immoral actions without guilt, never recognizing a need for conversion, presuming that God will not count anything against them, because “he loves them” anyway. It presumes that God’s love is blind. It is also a sin of presumption to say that there is no God. That one is a god unto one’s self. To presume that there is no absolute Source of the good, or that there is no such thing as truth; to presume in your own mind that you alone are the sole judge of what is good and true, is a deadly arrogance indeed.
But those who despair are also driven by pride. They believe themselves to be beyond God’s love, that their sins are too great for even God to forgive. They cease to hope for salvation, for help in attaining it. This kind of attitude denies God’s love, his goodness, and his justice. It does not trust in the Lord’s promise of mercy to those who repent, no matter how great their sins. This was Judas’ error. He despaired of Jesus’ capacity to forgive him for what he had done. Peter, who had betrayed Jesus three times, on the other hand, believed in Jesus’ love, and though he was crushed by his guilt, he met it with contrition and hope.
Faith and humility are our guards against presumption and despair. It is in faith and humility that we are able to see and to choose “the right side” in the battle for our eternal souls.