Saturday, 15 December 2018

Faith and love, the great combination

IT isn’t possible to live without faith. This is true in the smallest of matters.

IT isn’t possible to live without faith. This is true in the smallest of matters.

I get to the bus stop a few minutes before the bus is due because I believe it will arrive on schedule. It may not, of course, it could be involved in an accident, but if I didn’t believe, I wouldn’t be at the stop.

That £20 note in your bag or wallet has hardly any intrinsic value. Government produces them every year in their millions and does so at a cost of pennies each.

But in exchange for things of genuine value we accept these pieces of paper quite cheerfully. Why? Because we believe when we come to buy something others will accept them also.

Maintaining faith in the nation’s currency is a first concern of government; let it be lost and the results are catastrophic. Germany in 1929, Hungary in 1945 and Yugoslavia in 1992 all saw their currencies destroyed, their citizens’ lifesavings wiped out and the countries engulfed in social turmoil. The destruction of Germany’s mark in 1929 laid the foundations for the advent of Hitler.

Atheists use faith as much as the rest of us. Professor Dawkins, a lively atheist, has written a number of books. From the first day he determines on a book to the day it is in the bookshops will hardly be less than a year, maybe quite a lot more.

Throughout that time he has to believe that when finished there will be enough people wanting to buy it to have made the exercise worthwhile. All this allowed, it is none the less in a religious context that faith is more usually considered. And that produces an immediate problem.

Right now large parts of the Middle East, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Libya, Yemen etc., are aflame, driven by groups like Isis and  al-Qaeda, and these wars are rooted in the faith of those fighting them, fighting which has involved appalling atrocities.

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. Clearly faith on its own is not enough. Something is missing.

That something is love. To be a positive force for good, faith must be grounded in love. Paul in that great piece about love (1 Corinthians chapter 13) makes this crystal clear: "...and though I have all faith so that I could move mountains and have not love, I am nothing...”

Now not too many of us have a faith that is able to move mountains, but even if we had, on its own Paul makes plain, it isn’t enough. But faith and love together is an unbeatable combination.

That is why at the end of the chapter Paul spells out the three great qualities that are the essence of life — "faith, hope and love” and that is why he states "and the greatest of these is love.”

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