As I started reading 1 Thessalonians this week, I had to stop and meditate already after the 3rd verse of the letter. Paul thanks God for his audience, specifically for their faith, love, and hope. The placement of these comments so early in the letter suggests these are essential marks of Christian life.
As a Christian, how much of the day do I spend meditating on or manifesting these traits? Is my life driven by faith, love and hope? Or do I just think about them whenever everything else in my busy daily schedule is taken care of? I find myself lacking the necessary focus and giving the deserved attention to these 3 drivers of Christian life.
True faith is, like that of the Thessalonians, a “working” faith. Without showing it through deeds, it is dead (James 2:17). My faith should trigger and direct my actions, but how much of what I do every day is a consequence of my faith in Jesus? Our purpose on Earth is to bring glory to God through our living (1 Corinthians 10:31) and witness to the end of the world (Matthew 24:14). Our faith is as strong as the extent to which we dedicate our time doing this.
In chapter 13 of the first letter to the Corinthians (verse 13), Paul brings up the same 3 attitudes: “So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love”. Why is love the greatest? Because it gives value to the other two. If we have faith and hope but no love, we might as well not have any (verses 2-3). Paul is praising Thessalonians’ “labor of love”, because, as with faith, love is something we need to work with and work on. Different to like or disliking, which are inherent to our personalities, love is an act of choice, and we need to ‘labor’ on it in order to increase and manifest it towards people, especially those we deem undeserving of it.
Note Paul is not recognizing ‘just’ the hope of the Thessalonians, but its steadfastness. It is one thing to be hopeful and positive when everything goes well, and it is quite another when the present is troubled and the future dim. However, our hope is in Jesus Christ, who “overcame the world” (John 16:33), is greater and stronger than anything we might encounter on Earth and has promised to return and “deliver us from the wrath to come” (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Someone wisely said, “we don’t know that the future might bring, but we know the ONE who holds the future”.
Now then, how should tomorrow look like would we let ourselves be led by these 3 marks of true Christianity? What would we do differently, how would we do that and why would we do it? May the work of faith, labor of love and steadfastness of hope be our guiding beacons!