Monday, February 10, 2020

Faith, Love, Hope

When we talk about faith, hope, and love, the verse that often comes to mind is the one that tells us that these three remain, but the greatest of these is love. Which is all well and good, but it's also a little cryptic. These three remain? What even are these things?

To put our fingers on what exactly faith, hope, and love are, we're better off turning to the first chapter of 1 Thessalonians. Here, Paul puts some beautiful language to what we gain through faith, hope, and love.

You produce by faith, Paul says, which means faith is that thing by which we act. Faith gives us the confidence, and the confident assurance, to move on what we believe. It gives us permission to do what God has called us to do. And that makes sense. Faith is the sense of what you believe, and if you believe in something, you should live like you do. You should move like you do. You should act like you do. So to say that we produce by faith is quite right - everything we do, we do because we believe in it. Faith.

You are motivated by love, Paul continues, which means that love is that thing that makes us want to act. It's the reason we do what we do. And this can mean any of a number of things. It can mean the love that we have for what we are doing, which is one thing. It can also mean the love that we have for those we are doing it for. It can mean the love that someone else has for us that makes us want to do something for their benefit. It can even mean the love that God has for us, which inspires us to be the best that we can possibly be - and that means acting out of our love. The truth is that we don't do anything without love pushing the buttons somewhere, so when Paul says we are motivated by love, he's quite right again. We are.

(It's important here to say also that sometimes, we seem to be motivated by hate. And on the surface, that might be true. But underneath hate is love. It is love scorned. It is love delayed. It is love rejected. Everything we hate in this world, we hate because it has tarnished somehow our love. It is a threat to our love. It is a danger to our love. So even in those cases where it seems like hate is the motivator, it's really love. Just...broken love.)

And you are inspired by hope, Paul concludes, which means that hope is that thing that keeps us moving forward. It's the thing that draws us down the road. It's that thing that guides us as we continue to push on and press on and move toward whatever it is that we're hoping in (in the best of things, Christ, but this is true of hope - as it is true of faith and love - whether it is a specifically Christian faith, love, or hope or not). Hope sets our sights on something yet to come, something we cannot quite yet see but that our hearts cannot let go of. We hold onto it as though it is absolutely real because, well, it absolutely is. Our hope is just as tangible as our faith or our love; it simply requires us to be patient. So we hold out our hope, always expecting more, always expecting better, always expecting the fullness of whatever it is that we hope for, and it is this that inspires us to keep moving toward it.

Faith, hope, and love or, as Paul puts them, faith, love, and hope. These three endure, and they enable us, motivate us, and inspire us in the life of faith. How beautiful.

You produce by faith, are motivated by love, and are inspired by hope (1 Thess 1)

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