Faith, Hope, and Love…it never gets old: Old First E-pistle 08.28.14

Faith, Hope, and Love…it never gets old: Old First E-pistle 08.28.14

(While away, I asked for guest E-pistle-ists. 3 people came forward, all newer members in our community, who surely not all of you will know {we will add their photos to help in that regard}.

Each offers an interesting “academic background” for writing an E-pistle. (Not that academic credentials are needed, but it is interesting that it happened this way!);

08.14: Richard Hurst studied at the Unitarian Universalists’ Meadville Lombard Seminary, associated with the University of Chicago.

08.21: Barbara G. is a student of the New Life Bible Institute at Beulah Baptist Church.

08.28: Michael Johnson just finished his B.A. in Philosophy at Temple and is looking towards undertaking a Ph.D., but theological concerns are never far for him.

Be sure and read their contributions today (below) and over the next two weeks. And Michael C. is grateful for their effort and help. –MC)

Faith, Hope, and Love…it never gets old

You all remember Paul’s first letter to the church in Corinth, right? You know the one where he says:

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. -1 Corinthians 13:13

This is an awesome verse. I think it wonderfully and succinctly captures the essence of what being a Christian is all about. It gets down to the foundation upon which everything else rests. The church is built on this foundation, all theologies should be too. Now the problem with having faith, hope and love as the foundation is that once you build on it you tend to quickly forget what that foundation looks like, or that it even exists at all. But as any structural engineer would readily point out the foundation is the most important part of the building. So you don’t want to be “a foolish man who built his house on sand.” (Matthew 7:26) Instead, you want make sure your foundation is solid.

In addition to 1 Corinthians 13:13 being a great foundation, I think the verse also works as a fantastic litmus test for Christians to get back on track. I like it even better than that popular 1990’s mantra “W.W.J.D? What would Jesus do?” But that’s just me.

It is important to recognize that 1 Corinthians 13:13 comes at the end of Paul’s famous love passage. In this passage Paul gives various examples of what love looks like, but he never specifically attempts to define love. This is important because by its very nature love is expansive. Philosophers and poets who have attempted to wrestle with the concept of love usually fall short in some way or another. This is due to the fact that love cannot be contained nor can it be codified since love is not only expansive, love is infinite due to the fact that “God is love” (1 John 4:8) And this perhaps is what makes Paul’s love passage so wonderful. Sure the passage is often quoted during wedding ceremonies, and that’s okay, but if we replace the word “love” with “God” then the passage gains a heightened level of clarity and conviction that echoes almost directly Christ’s teachings.

“If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not God, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

“If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not God, I gain nothing”

God is patient, God is kind. He does not envy, He does not boast, He is not proud.”

God does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.  God always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

God never fails.”

Historians have evidenced that the church in Corinth was one of the more diverse churches that Paul had correspondence with. Having Romans, Greeks and Jews all worshiping with one another in this babe of a church certainly brought with it many unique challenges. By emphasizing faith, hope and love Paul establishes a common ground among the fellowship that avoids getting caught up in cultural or class differences.

What I find most fascinating is that the response that Paul gave to that ancient church in Corinth can pretty much be appropriated whole cloth to our contemporary church and the issues we face. Even though the church has grown into a complex behemoth of an edifice, even though we often get ensnared in messy church politics which lead to bitter disagreements, even though we adhere to different doctrines, and even though at times we hurt those we’re called to heal the foundation remains the same, sure and unchanged. That simple verse: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love, stands for all eternity. Without it, well we’ve got nothing. With it we bring the God’s love to the world.


Michael Johnson