Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Faith, hope and love are the forces of life

EVEN atheists and others who have no religious affiliation still use faith — and do so on a daily basis.

I get to the station in time to catch my train because I believe it will depart on time. It may not as the engine might develop a fault or there may be a strike of rail personnel. But if I didn’t believe, I wouldn’t be there.

That £20 note in your pocket has an intrinsic value of just a few pennies but it is faith in our currency that makes us willing to accept it in exchange for something of real value. When faith in a currency is lost the results are catastrophic.

In 1929 the German mark collapsed and thus prepared the way for Adolf Hitler.

Today the Venezuelan currency, the bolívar, is failing, with inflation running at annualised figures of thousands of a per cent, resulting in much hurt and hunger among the least protected.

It would not be difficult to multiply the occasions on which faith is an essential ingredient of our actions.

It is, nonetheless, in a religious context that we usually think of faith.

The Christian, for example, cannot prove his beliefs, he has to hold them by faith. The atheist cannot prove his belief that God doesn’t exist, he too has to hold it by faith.

This linking of faith to religious belief at once raises a problem. The Middle East is presently being torn apart by groups with a militant faith who in the name of that faith are committing horrendous atrocities with a huge loss of life.

Again, in the story of the Good Samaritan, the priest and the Levite who passed by on the other side of the road rather than help the wounded man were deeply religious men of faith.

But their faith failed to make them cross the road to help. Plainly, faith alone is not enough.

Faith there must be, as we have tried to see, but it needs something else that is missing and which faith alone cannot supply.

That something is love. To be the positive force for good that it can be, faith must be grounded in love.

Paul, in his great piece about love (1st Corinthians 13) makes this very clear: “...and though I have all faith so that I could move mountains, and have not love, I am nothing...”

How many of us would claim to be able to move mountains by faith alone? Not, I suspect, very many!

But even were a faith as strong as that, it would not be enough. Yet let love be linked to faith and the position is transformed as that is an unbeatable combination.

The faith that is conditioned by love will not, cannot, hurt and kill.

Paul links the three great forces that are essential to sustain and maintain life — faith, hope and love.

To move through this life with confidence we must have and deploy all three together.

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