Faith, hope, and love - only these things remain. And the greatest of these is love.
...and the most dangerous of these is hope.
Hope is dangerous because we are a people who don't really understand any more what hope is. We've so diluted the word, so twisted it, that it's become something different entirely from what it meant when Paul wrote it. We hold onto hope like it's something meant for the present, like it's something God is working out in us right now. We hope the weather will be good today. We hope the job opportunity will call. We hope the doctors will know what they're doing. We hope the bill doesn't come in the mail. We hope...we hope...we hope...and for all our hoping, we cannot believe.
Believe is kind of the first piece of these three that remain - it's faith. It's knowing, believing, trusting that God is who He says He is. But when we spend our time hoping for today, we're not believing. We can't. Hope, the way we use it, means that what we're holding onto most tightly is the possibility that whatever it is, won't. We hope the weather will be good today, but inherent in that hope is a resignation that it might not be. We hope the job will call, but that means a fair portion of our heart anticipates that it won't. We hope the doctors will know what they're doing, but part of us is worried that things won't go as well as we want them to. Hope, in the present, draws our focus away from what God is doing and centers it on what He might not do.
How can we ever believe in the face of so much hope? How can we ever trust in the same breath in which we are doubting?
Hope was never meant for today, as crazy as that sounds; hope is always held for tomorrow. Hope is for the time that is coming. Hope is believing the things that God is working out for later, even when we can't see them developing right now. Hope is for heaven, for the promise of Christ's return. When Paul says faith, hope, and love, he is speaking about God, specifically, today, tomorrow, and forever. That's what faith, hope, and love are - God today, tomorrow, and forever. Hope is for tomorrow.
Which leaves us faith for today, and that's better. Faith for today means we pay attention. Faith for today means we believe what God is doing among us right now. Faith for today means we keep our eyes open and witness the work of God in, around, among, through, for us. For Him. For this world. Faith is trust with eyes wide open. It means we can trust in what God is doing today without having to hold onto the possibility that He might not do it. He is doing it. Hope, this hope we have for the present, leaves room for doubt; faith has no such luxury.
And hope? True hope? True hope has no room for doubt, either. True hope is believing in tomorrow with the same conviction we believe, by faith, today. It's trusting as deeply in what we do not yet see as we trust in that which is unfolding before our very eyes.
This understanding is critical for the way we actually live in this world. If we don't get faith and hope right, we miss out on both today and tomorrow. We miss out on today because we're waiting for tomorrow, and we miss out on tomorrow because it always feels like today. We never know when we've arrived; we aren't aware when we get there. We spend our lives waiting on the God who is coming, completely neglecting the God who is already here.
There's no better place to see how all this faith and hope stuff works than in the journey. To really understand, it's important to see this kind of trust with skin on. We have to see how it really plays out in this world, in this life. So I will try to do that tomorrow.