1 Corinthians 13:13. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Faith. Hope. Love.
Hope is our reality. We don't just hope; we have a hope. Our hope is Christ and our union with him. We are and will be transformed. We are and will be renewed. We have been and will be resurrected. We are and will live forever. Our sins are and will be eternally gone. These are our new realities, our hope.
Faith flows from this hope. We trust this new reality. We live in dependency upon Christ and our union with him. Faith is not something we try to do; it is the expression of hope. Faith is our new habit of the soul. We live by faith (Gal. 2:20) in the hope of Christ.
Love then flows from hope and faith. Faith produces love. If I truly trust and depend on the hope of my union with Christ, that I am in Christ, then faith in the love of Christ in me will produce love out of me.
Galatians 5:6. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
As Paul shows us in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, love is the person of Christ whose life of love is now a power that is present in us. Love is not a to-do list for us to accomplish. We cannot self-generate love. Love is a power and Love is a person whose life we must receive. We must allow ourselves to be loved before we can love. Therefore, love comes from faith. What this means is that the Christian life is less about trying to love better, and more about allowing ourselves to be loved, which will then cause us to love better instinctually.
Often as Christians we reverse this important order. We start our Christian life with a feeling of love and we attempt to maintain that feeling. We feel great about our salvation and we feel in love with God and so we work at continuing to feel this way. But this is self-generated love, rather than love generated from faith. Inevitably, somewhere along the way, life takes a hard turn and things get difficult. The feelings of love subside. We start to think, "Where is God?" "Does God love me?"
The problem is that this Christian was not grounded in hope. They never learned to live from faith in that hope, a hope that sees them through the hard turns and dark valleys. Their love was attachment only, not true commitment born from dependency. The love (agape) that Paul is talking about in 1 Corinthians, is the real, committed, covenant love of God that sustains us in and out of trials. It is the love of the crucified Christ. The love that remains in the midst of the crosses of life.
That is why this kind of agape love is the greatest of the virtues. It is the proof of God. It is the manifestation of faith and hope. Faith and hope without love will never save a life. But faith and hope with love can. Love will change the world. It already has. Christ's love has changed everything. His love has produced the hope and faith that we need in order to receive love, Love in the form of a person and his life.
Our love has to flow from faith and at the same time our faith has to produce love. Both of these are equally true. Love must begin as a received power. We are commanded to love. Our hope, faith, and union with Christ will by its very nature produce loving deeds and service. It will produce goodness, gentleness, and faithfulness. It will be patient and kind, it will not envy or boast. It will bear all things and believe all things and keep no record of wrongs.
If I believe that this power is in me, that this person called Love indwells me, then this same love will flow out of me. Faith will produce love. This is why Paul can say "without love we are nothing." Because if there is no love, then there is no faith, and if there is no faith, then there is no hope. And without hope your life is meaningless and void. It is nothing.
Do you believe that you are I indwelt by love? Have you seen your love come from faith or only from feelings? How can faith in your union with Christ produce this love in your life?