It is only the Third Day of Christmas and already people are no longer turning on their Christmas Trees or their outside lights. I even saw some folks taking their decorations yesterday. Christmas continues though and today we receive three French Hens. These are the three Theological Virtues. From Paul's first letter to the Church at Corinth he writes, "And now, faith, hope and love abide, these three, and the greatest of these is love." These are some of the most powerful tools in our part as co-laborers for God's Kingdom.
Hope is not wishful thinking. A Biblical hope is confident expectation. "For in this hope we are saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? For if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience." (Romans 8:24-25 ESV) Hope is the beginning. It is for that which is not yet known. Hope is the fuel to dreams. It drives us to grab on to God's vision for creation. It is the ability to see with God's eyes, if only for a moment. It blinds us to the ruse that sin and darkness uses to draw us to wander. It is the ability to see through the pall of pain and death that we might know that our present situation is only temporary. Hope is temporary. True hope ultimately leads to fulfillment.
Faith is not the counterbalance for blessings and success. Too often, our contemporary pseudo-religious leaders herald to our culture that if we have enough faith, we will prosper. Remember, our Faith is a Biblical Faith. "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen." (Hebrews 11:1 ESV) Faith is action on our part which is directly proportional to the one, or One, in whom we have hope. If our hope is in God, faith drives us on in the face of the storms of doubt, trouble and persecution. Faith is temporary. True faith ultimately becomes sight.
Love is the most overused and misunderstood of the virtues. In this verse from Paul's letter, this word translated "Love" is "agape." Unlike the English, this kind of love is not a romantic or physical love. This agape love is a self sacrificing love. 1 John 4:8 defines love in its clearest sense. "Anyone who does not love, does not know God, because God is love." God doesn't just love us, God IS love. Everything God does comes from His person, His love. The object of God's love, most notably, humanity, does not merit God's love, but simply is enfolded in it. The clearest expression of this love is Christ's prayer in the Garden hours before his arrest and crucifixion. "Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done." (Luke 22:42 ESV) Christ did not FEEL this love. He actually preferred to avoid it. This love was an act of the will, not of the heart or mere emotion. It was not just an act of human will, but divine will. Love, therefore is not only an act of the will, it is an act of God's will within us. It is, according to Paul, the greatest virtue. Unlike hope and faith, love is not temporary. It is eternal. It is of God, it is God.