Lesson 1: Faith, Hope, and Love

For two thousand years theologians have used the words “faith, hope, and love” to summarize the Christian message. It all began with Paul who said in Colossians 1: 4-6 that the triad is the “Gospel” and the “Word of Truth”.

Although most theologians claim the three are essential for a healthy life and for correcting the ailments of society, few treat them comprehensively. When they do, their attempts usually leave a lot to be desired. Perhaps they think we all understand what they mean. Faith, hope, and love operate a lot like habits. We take them for granted, constantly employing them without thought.

Perhaps they find it difficult to analyze anything so central to real living. It is easy to separate and examine the workings of machines and mechanical operations; it is much more difficult to dissect complex organic processes and interpret historical activities. Trying to explain them often obscures rather than clarifies.
Yet faith, hope, and love are far more basic to living than the scientific method. All, even scientists, are constantly asking “What or whom do I trust? For what do I hope? What should I do?” The quality of all life depends upon our beliefs, our hopes, and our actions. The difference between Christians and others is simply the content of our faith, hope, and love. The Christian way is simply our response to the Gospel: we trust Jesus’ story, we wait for the fulfillment of Jesus’ promises, and we act as Jesus acted. Douglas John Hall thinks the best way we can correct the ills of our society is by defining the triad in terms of how they oppose the values of technology: faith not sight, hope not finality, and love not power.
That does not mean Christians have all the right answers. Faith, hope, and love are gifts for coping with the uncertainties of real life. In I Corinthians 13: 8-13 Paul claims the three are useful in this present time when we see in a glass darkly. Faith, hope, and love do not bring certainty, but rather the courage to act as Jesus acted in our ambiguous world. Many of the problems the Church faces in our time come from those who frantically claim they already see clearly and therefore feel called to demonize anyone who disagrees with them.

My goal is to use the course for examining the many ways faith, hope, and love have been portrayed in Christian history. Perhaps we can get started by sharing how you would answer the questions, “In what do you have faith?”, “For what do you hope?”, and “What does love mean to you?” If Lent calls us to examine our lives, pondering these makes an excellent discipline for the season.

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