The Gospel of Faith, Hope, and Love
by Fr. John Kostas
…remembering before our God and Father your work of faith,
and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.
(I Thessalonians 1: 3)
In our meditation last Saturday, we considered faith as one of the trinity of Christian virtues as outlined by St. Paul. Let’s go on to consider the other two.
When speaking about death, St. Paul tells the Thessalonians not to grieve “as others do who have no hope.” (I Thessalonians 4: 13).
Suffering comes to everyone in life. But suffering can be endured, even transfigured, because we know that God Himself shared in that suffering, and by death trampled down death.
Hope gives courage, and courage allows the believer to make faith real through sacrificial love. We hope to be transformed into the likeness of Christ by living a ‘cruciform’ life — a life whose hope rests not in fleeting happiness but real and deep joy.
Christian hope sustains us. It is built on this promise: “He who has prepared us for this very thing has given us the Spirit as a guarantee.” (II Corinthians 5: 5).
The Greeks, they say, have a word for it. Actually, when it comes to ‘love,’ the Greeks have several words for this many splendored thing.
In I Thessalonians, Paul speaks of philadelphia. This is love for our brothers and sisters in Christ. It is essential for a Christian community. It shows itself through intercessory prayer, hospitality, financial and emotional support, and in missionary service to the world around us.
For Hollywood, love means passionate craving, or romantic sentiment. In Greek, that is called eros. There is a place for eros in Christian life, if our passionate love is directed first toward God, and then toward our spouse, if we are blessed with one.
The word for Christian love is agape, which can also be translated as ‘charity.’ Agape love is unselfish; as St. Paul says, it is a love that does not insist on its own way. Such love is not natural to us. God teaches us how to love, through His Scriptures, His Holy Spirit, and the example of love incarnate — Our Lord Jesus Christ.