This Sunday we continue our Covenant series in both our 10am service and at NightChurch by considering what it means to Love One Another. As we mainly consider Jesus’ words about loving one another in the gospel of John during our services, it is also interesting to see how the apostle Paul uses this command in his letters.
Paul famously writes in 1 Corinthians about love between fellow believers, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” From this, Paul employs the triad of “faith, hope and love” in a number of his letters to encourage the churches. Interestingly, each time he does so, the “love” that Paul talks about is not love of God, or love of strangers, but love of each other! For example, in Colossians, Paul thanks God for “your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love you have for all God’s people— the faith and love that spring from the hope stored up for you in heaven.” (Col 1:4-5). For Paul, the markers of Christian spiritual maturity are these three things; faith in Jesus, love for God’s people, and hope in eternity.
Unfortunately, not all the congregations Paul writes to have the complete set! In Ephesians, Paul thanks God for “your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all God’s people,” but then prays for more hope for the Ephesians, that “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people.” Similarly, Paul thanks God for the ever-increasing faith and love of the Thessalonians (2 Thess 1:3), but then spends the whole next chapter attempting to strengthen their hope as well! It appears for a number of the Christian communities in Paul’s time, facing persecution and turmoil, that hope was in short supply.
The question for us is, which of this triad is weakest in our church? Do we also struggle to find clear hope in eternity in the face of a world that is increasingly opposed to Jesus and his way? Are we in need of more faith in Jesus as a church, and as individuals, when faith sometimes appears uncertain? Or is love for one another our weakness, as we live busy lives with problems enough of our own to worry about?
As we consider the call to Love One Another this week, can I encourage you to pray that we would be individuals, and a church full of faith in Jesus, love for each other, and hope for eternity this year.