In the New Testament scriptures the triad of faith, love and hope are combined to portray a complete picture of healthy spirituality; “since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints because of the hope laid up for you in heaven.” (ESV Col 1:45), and “your work of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ” (ESV Thess 1:3). I believe that this triad gives spiritual balance or wholeness to life, avoiding what our natural natures try to distort or turn into fanaticism, unhealthy religion. Combining the elements of faith, love and hope makes our spirituality whole and complete.
I read a book on the teachings of Jesus that focused on faith as the primary virtue and left me lacking in several areas. Faith alone without the other elements becomes simply power of my own mind in isolation. Faith without love is academic intellectualism. Love is what moves faith into relationship with God and others. Faith alone becomes fanatical because it lacks the humility that comes with love. By combining these elements Paul is totally in harmony with the teaching of Jesus who always taught religion without love is not God’s way. The true Biblical faith is not self centered, but God centered and moves us out of ourselves into relationship with God and others. Without love, faith will never have sacrificial passion, “For God so loved the world that he gave”. And Paul even goes so far to say that “faith works through love”.
However love is dependent upon faith because love requires risk and trust. True love involves giving of myself and this giving may not be returned the way I expect. It may in fact get the response of indifference or hatred. Everyday God takes the risk of love as He extends Himself to us giving us the option of responding in love. For me to love means that I am a reflection of God’s love with dependence upon God as the first great lover.
We all know of the religious folks who are all about love and only love. To them love is nothing but a good feeling like, “let’s all get together and feel good!” Love without faith has no backbone and is not really love anyway. Love without faith excludes God. Love without faith is self centered and unholy. Love without faith becomes codependent, without boundaries, unhealthy and sick.
Hope; to dream and desire a better life for ourselves, others, or for the world is natural and certainly a good thing, the basic universal hope. I certainly desire and dream of having a good marriage, a good job, a beautiful creative lifestyle, but if that is as far as my hope goes I may be sorely disappointed with life and angry with God. Biblical hope looks beyond the beauty of this life to the Giver of life. And hope is more than confidence in myself to accomplish something. Hope is taking the hand of God reaching out to me. Hope gives us the perspective of a greater life than our own. This keeps us from turning our religion into a self serving, human kingdom. My hope is in God, that he has reached out to me and is my Savior. It is this hope which is the root of these virtues of faith and love. It is this hope which gives universal attributes of faith and love a quality which is uniquely Christian.