Faith, hope and love

I've just finished reading The Lord's prayer by Peter Lewis, a collection of meditations on the prayer that Jesus taught His disciples (Matthew 6:9-13). It's been time well spent as he brings a great deal of insight from his studies, pastoral work, and life experiences.

He concluded with the line found at the end of the prayer in later manuscripts, "For Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory, forever. Amen." This may not be canonical but it, as Lewis says, "tells us something reliable about God and also something typical about the people who pray the prayer than Jesus gave them."

His last chapter is on the concluding word, amen, which he describes as "an expression of affirmation, equivalent to 'so be it'... It is at once a statement of faith, a declaration of hope and an expression of love". This got me thinking about Paul's comment in 1 Corinthians 13:13

"So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

As I read Lewis it got me thinking about Paul's sequencing of these three virtues and his conclusion.

  1. Faith is trusting in Jesus: that He is who He says He is, that He has done, is doing, and will do all that the Bible describes to us. If we believe this, it will give us hope...
  2. ... A hope that we have been saved by Jesus, that we have a wonderful eternity with Him ahead of us. We are not struggling on towards death and annihilation/hell. Anything less is sub-hope, merely temporary and not rooted in the return of the One who will make all things new. When we dwell on this, it should amaze us and prompt our love for Him who rescued us...
  3. ... And it is this love that we will have for all eternity when we are with Him. We love Him now as we consider all this, how much more when we experience it?

Faith and hope have a time and a place, now and here. They will have been completed, they will cease to "abide" when we see Jesus and are with Him. But we will never stop loving Him. Love, therefore is eternal, and so, in Paul's estimation, the greatest of the three.

Marilynne Robinson makes a wonderful conclusion for application from this 'eternality' through her narrator John Ames in Gilead:

"There is no justice in love, no proportion in it, and there need not be, because in any specific instance it is only a glimpse or parable of an embracing, incomprehensible reality. It makes no sense at all because it is the eternal breaking in on the temporal. So how could it subordinate itself to cause or consequence?"
Oh to know this love more now!