We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
(1 Thessalonians 1:2)
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
(1 Corinthians 13:13)
Paul's letter to the Thessalonians comes alive when we “meet” the people involved and consider the history of their relationship, doesn’t it? Rather than impersonal greetings and memories of obscure places and events, we enter the drama of a "chance" meeting, a community overturned, and the impact of suffering with joy.
In his opening paragraph, Paul recalls: your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
Faith. Hope. Love. Sound familiar?
As Bible scholar NT Wright points out in Paul for Everyone (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004) these three qualities play a key role in Paul's understanding of the Christian life. Together they are the ingredients for a Christian community—followers of Christ who can change their world though faithful "turning," joyful even in suffering, with the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let's end this week by meditating on a well-known passage where Paul teaches on faith, hope, and love.
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears. When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put the ways of childhood behind me. 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.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13)
Questions for reflection and discussion: How do these qualities allow us to follow Christ joyfully, even in suffering? Is your faith community known for faith, hope, and love? Are you?
This week's devotions were written by Catherine McNiel. Catherine and her family have been part of WBC since 2008. Her husband, Matthew, is the director of Puente del Pueblo, our church’s ministry that serves residents of West Chicago. Catherine is the author of Long Days of Small Things and All Shall Be Well: Awakening to God’s Presence in His Messy, Abundant World.