“These three abide,” Paul says (1 Cor 13:13). They remain: they’re always there, they’re always needed. They are the trinity of Christian virtues, the triumvirate of Christian practices, the trivium of Christian ethics.
Faith, hope, and love.
The words are commonplace in our world, tossed to and fro in waves of well-meaning good feelings. “Don’t stop believin’.” “Ya gotta have faith.” “Don’t give up hope.” “Hope for the best.” “Love makes the world go round.” “All you need is love.”
Yes—but what are they? What do we mean when we talk about faith, and hope, and love?
As Christians we don’t approach these in the abstract. We don’t theorize about faith. We don’t philosophize about hope. We don’t theologize about love.
We look to Jesus, and we follow him.
So we see faith in Jesus’ utter dependence on Abba God for all things, both his daily bread and God’s kingdom come. We see faith in his enduring, even agonizing trust in God through all things, even his sufferings, even on the cross.
We see hope in Jesus’ confidence in God’s powerful love, that even in the midst of life’s harshest realities, even in the face of death, God would bring about good for him: vindication, new life.
We see love in Jesus’ compassion for the shepherdless crowds, his welcome of the sinners and tax traitors, his neighboring of enemy others. We see love in his selfless self-giving in feeding, healing, teaching, forgiving—and suffering and dying for you, for me, for all.
And we follow him. In Jesus’ faith, in his hope, in his love, energized by his Spirit, we follow him.
So we see faith in the faith of Jesus’ followers, as we depend on God for all things, as we trust in him through all things. We see hope in the hope of his followers, as we anticipate God’s powerful, life-giving love bursting out of our darkest deaths. We see love in the love of his followers, as we show compassion and welcome sinners and neighbor enemies, as we give ourselves in feeding, healing, boundless forgiving.
Faith, hope, and love—Jesus-faith, Jesus-hope, and Jesus-love.
“And the greatest of these,” Paul concludes, “is love” (1 Cor 13:13).