“Faith, hope and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” I Corinthians 13:13
There are no more beautiful and few better-known passages in scripture than this one. The culmination of the ultimate description of Christ-like love, Paul draws into a nutshell the list of things that really matter, the things that matter most whether or not we possess and demonstrate. Excelling in each of these virtues is a real challenge; in fact, few can boast of excelling in any of the three, let alone a simultaneous trio. Experience has taught me that it is much easier to see and feel the absence over the presence of the crown jewels. No faith in God, self, or others. No hope, especially in circumstances beyond our control. No love to mark the tenor and tone of our human interactions. That picture is easy to see, even when the view is in the mirror.
For the past two Sundays, I have talked about hope and faith. Hope calls on us to be joyful, though we have considered all the facts. It rests in the reality that God knows and sees what we do not, and that he is capable of what we are not. And faith is what we possess – “I will put my trust in Him” – and what we practice – “Let others see Jesus in me.” The last was central to my admonitions and encouragement regarding the way we relate to one another, especially those with who we are different. Here are a few words that bear repeating. The Holy Spirit will not cultivate a mean spirit. That’s a good place to land when judging fruit. For the Christian, failing to embrace the ethnic diversity of our church and world is an affront to the God who created us all and the Middle Eastern man whose name we bear. I have faith that a possessed faith will give way to a practiced faith that will influence the faithful and those who come in contact with them. I think that is at the heart of the gospel.
Sunday, we will begin to add the third ingredient into the mix. By all accounts the greatest of them all, the one that gives evidence and rise to the other two. Before we do, we will talk about how, in the words of the great philosopher and theologian James Taylor, “one thing leads to another” as we shower the people we love with love. If we can emerge from these weeks with a clearer picture of the three things which remain, we will have done some good work. And we will be closer to being the persons and people God created and has called us to be. It’s a worthy endeavor. I’m glad to join you on the journey.