A Foggy Mirror

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.

1 Corinthians 13:13 is one of those great feel-good Bible verses. What’s better than faith, hope, and love, right? Toss that chapter around and a wedding’s likely to spring up right before your eyes.

But… am I the only one who’s ever wondered about that second sentence?

I remember thinking as a new believer that perhaps this was a bit over-stated. New believers are allowed to think things like that, I guess. But it seemed to me like faith and hope were pretty essential.

We’re saved by faith, right? So without faith, we’re lost. And I absolutely knew, first-hand, that hopelessness means a slow, agonizing slide into oblivion. I don’t think it’s hyperbole to claim that those who lose all hope are doomed.

So I had a little trouble understanding why “love” was so clearly greater than either faith or hope.

There’s 1 John 4:8(b), which says “…God is love.” Okay, I guess equating God and love makes the case pretty clearly, but I still had trouble with what seemed like a dismissal of two fairly essential ideals.

A few years back, I ran into an idea. I don’t know if I thought of it—probably not. Most likely I read it somewhere and let it rattle around in my head long enough that it started sounding like my own thoughts.

Anyway, it popped up again when I wrote yesterday about Then, Later, Or Now?

Faith looks back and provides a solid foundation of assurance based on God’s faithfulness. Hope allows us to rest on that foundation and look forward in confidence. And love involves relationships, helping and encouraging one another—in the present.

It’s an interesting interaction. Faith makes sense of a chaotic past and lets us confidently anticipate an otherwise uncertain future. Together, faith and hope permit us to live in the present as God intended—in loving relationship with God, others, and self.

And as I re-read those words, I realized that God doesn’t deal with past or future. For Him, everything is Now. And one day, when we stand in His presence, it’ll be like that for us.

And as past and future drop away, so will the need for faith and hope. The entire continuum will be compressed into Now, and there’ll be only Love.

On this side of eternity, I think it means that faith, acted out in the present, might look a lot like love. It means hope, when it impacts the present, looks a lot like love. And I have no idea how that works.

Perhaps that’s what Paul meant when he wrote:

For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:12

Someday, I’ll get it.

For now, I believe and I hope.

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Copyright 2008-2012 by Rich Dixon, All Rights Reserved. Used by permission.Rich is an author and speaker. He is the author of: Relentless Grace: God’s Invitation To Give Hope Another Chance. Visit his web site www.relentlessgrace.com

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