1 Corinthians 13:13. So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love.
Faith. Hope. Love. The three graces of being in Christ.
Hope is our reality. We don’t just hope that something might happen; we possess a living hope – Christ’s own indestructible life. We have been and will be transformed into his likeness. 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. These are our hope.
Faith is the expression of our hope. We place our full trust in all that is ours in Christ. We live in complete dependency upon him. Faith is not something we work hard at getting or keeping, it is the natural outflow of focusing on our hope. Faith is our new habit of the soul. Our new instinct. Our new way of life. We live by faith (Gal. 2:20).
Real unconditional love, is the result of overflowing hope and faith. As I trust more and more in the hope of my union with Christ, this faith in the love of Christ for me and in me will produce love that overflows out of me.
Galatians 5:6. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love.
In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, Paul shows us that love IS the person of Christ. By our union with Christ, his love is now a power that is present in us. Love is not a to-do list for us to accomplish, and we cannot simply 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, true 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.
Often as Christians we reverse this important order. We start our Christian life with a feeling of love and then we spend the rest of our life trying to maintain that feeling. We start out feeling so in love with Jesus and wanting nothing more than to make God happy. And so we work hard to continue feeling this way. But this is a self-generated love, not the love that comes from faith. Inevitably, somewhere along the way, life takes a hard turn and things get difficult. The feelings of love subside. We start to question God. “Where is God?” “Does God love me?” And we start to question ourselves. “I don’t feel in love with God anymore. Am I even really saved?”
This poor Christian never learned to live from faith in eternal hope. The 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. Because love is the proof of life. Love is the expression of God. Love is the guaranteed result of faith and hope. Love must begin as a received power. It has to be given to us as a hope from outside of us, and received and trusted in by faith. But then our love has to flow from faith, and our faith has to produce love.
As we trust that this power of God’s love is in us, that this person called Love indwells us, then this same love will flow out of us. 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 truly nothing.
“To live is Christ” is to be filled with faith, hope, and love. Hope in the eternal life of Christ. Faith that fully trusts in his eternal life. And love that flows from his life of love in you.
Is your love generated by faith or only by your feelings?
You in Christ
How can faith in your union with Christ produce this love in your life?
Christ in you
Where have you seen Christ’s love in you recently?
Playlist: The greatest love.