USREPORT-US-MADOFF-CANCERReports today from the Wall Street Journal and the New York Post stated that unidentified sources are saying that disgraced and convicted Wall Street fraud Bernie Madoff, 71, is in the terminal stages of cancer.  US prison authorities are denying it.  Whether it’s true of false isn’t the topic of this post.

There seemed to had been a lot of hatred directed toward Madoff during his trial last spring, and not just among those who’d been taken by the scam artist.  I caught a glimpse or two on CNN with folks lining the streets with posters saying everything from”Bah-Bye Bernie” to “We Hope You Burn In Hell Madoff!”.  One blogger wrote, “No one deserves to be tortured in a public place, every day for 6 months, more than Bernard Madoff. If you are not familiar with this [explicative], he masterminded the greatest Ponzi scheme in Wall Street history. $50 billion worth.  Read here to find out why he should die a horrible death and then be tortured for all of eternity.”  Such passionate remarks and sentiments do make me wonder how we as Christians would treat such a man given the opportunity?  Would we stone him, call for his head, or be willing to pull the lever sending him on a sure path to eternal torment?

A few years ago when I first heard of Barack Obama’s book, “The Audacity of Hope”, it struck me as odd that a politician would turn out to be the one writing about something so profound and yet so basic (and who can forget Bill Clinton’s “I still believe in a place called Hope” line borrowed from the name of his boyhood home of Hope, Arkansas).

Paul wrote to the church in Rome, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13, ESV).”

I got to thinking about it again today, since I have been writing about hope of late, and my bone to pick is this: Shouldn’t it be us in church championing something so vital as hope?  If our God is the “God of hope”, shouldn’t we be a people of hope?  The gospel message and narrative bleeds hope after all.  Shouldn’t we be the most hopeful people alive?  Shouldn’t it be us offering hope to those in the grips of despair? And if we share a message of genuine and enduring hope, wouldn’t it mean holding out hope to the Bernie Madoff’s of the world?  Shouldn’t we be sharing hope with those the world has judged and written off as scum and undeserving?

The gospel is hope for the poor, hope for the neglected, hope for the abandoned, hope for the forgotten, hope for the hurting, and hope for the terminal no doubt.  But if our message stops there, if there is only hope for those who have been the victim and not the guilty, then we really have no hope at all.  We need a message that is hope for the sinners.  If Jesus isn’t hope for Bernie Madoff, how in the world is he hope for you and I?