One of the most quoted and well known passages in the Bible is Paul’s writings in 1 Corinthians 13 that explores love. It ends with the beautiful phrase,
“So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love”.
Those three words are amazing words, the kind of words that creates a possibility that will take all of our lives to unpack and an eternity to keep on exploring. In eternity there will always be love. Always. That is why I believe that we can describe the church as a people that learn and practice the rhythms of love. Without love we are nothing. No matter our theology or our intellect or our creativity. Love is what it is all about.
After my heart attack I have picked up the habit of reading a passage of Scripture while Lollie prepares to go to bed (that is a post for another time). Her preparations give me enough time to read through some of Paul’s letters. A few evenings ago I read the beginning of the letter of Thessalonians. Paul remembers this community’s, “… work of faith and labour of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ”. There it is again … faith … hope … love. But what has interested me over the last few weeks have been the words coupled with these three. Work, Labour and Steadfastness.
Firstly the work of faith. Some people make a big thing about James and his faith/works letter and then compare, and sometimes even contrasts it with Paul’s alleged “faith without works” theology. Here Paul mentions the work of faith. Faith has an external element – it becomes embodied and without this it is nothing. Our faith moves through our limbs or it doesn’t exist.
Secondly the labour of love. Labour in this Greek sentence is “kopos” and in secular Greek it is used to denote , “weariness as though one had been beaten”. It is not a romantic kind of love with likeminded people drinking red wine and coffee. The sense here is that it is difficult. Like it is with people. Period.
Lastly the steadfastness of hope. Staying steadfast when that which one hopes for is not yet in sight is what this hope is like. A mentor of mine asked me once if I knew how a glacier is formed. I had no idea. He explained to me how seasons of snow melt and how a small layer accumulates each year till the glacier reaches a critical mass. Then the glacier breaks through any surface. He then told me that this is a picture of kingdom work. It happens at the pace of glacier.
Church is a people learning the rhythms of the work of faith, the labour of love and the steadfastness of hope. What do you think?