One of the most familiar passages in all of Scripture is this: "and now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." 1 Corinthians 13:13. I have been thinking about these words as I recapped a trip to Chicago for a conference last week. One of the speakers used this passage to talk to us about many things--I held tightly to one. There are a lot of things in this life that compete for our attention. Many of them are very legitimate concerns--family, jobs, school, friends. However, the essence of our life boils down to these three things: faith, hope and love. Every man desires to know that there is something bigger than himself, something that he can place his faith in. Without it, life can seem so out of control and beyond the scope of our understanding. Living life in the absence of God insures that chaos will be the rule. It is God who provides order, God who gives meaning and God who handles life--even the things that we think we have control of.
Hope brings to mind the things that are yet to come. Take away hope and man's life is worthless. I read years ago about some prisoners in a POW camp during World War II. They were given the task daily of moving a huge pile of rock and debris from one side of the compound to the other. Then, the next day, they would come out and move the same pile back to its original location. This continued day after day. The man sharing the story told how so many of his friends lost hope. They saw the futility of their labor and the grim nature of their surroundings. Most of these prisoners died from lack of hope; others lost their mind because of the situation they were presented with. When man has no hope, he has no life. Just look at T.O. (Terrell Owens, wide receiver for the Dallas Cowboys). After an accidental overdose (some suggested it was a possible suicide) last week, his publicist, Kim Etheredge, told the press that claims about suicide were not valid. She said (I quote), "T. O. has 25 million reasons to live." (an obvious reference to his $25 million contract). Is that all a man is worth? Is the limit of what he can say about his life found in this--that he had a really good contract? When it is all said and done, God assured us that all the things of this earth would be gone (all 25 million reasons that T.O. lives). What then? Where is his hope...and the rest of the world's for that matter?
Then there is love. The song says it's what the world needs now. Christ said it 2000 years ago. In fact, He believed so strongly in its power, He said that the whole world would know who followed him by our love. Not our contracts. Not our talent. Not our performances. Not our cathedrals or our programs or our political agendas...just love.
This is what life is all about. Paul said it, not me. It comes down to the fact that the meaning of life is found in our faith in God (that higher power). His existence validates ours. His strength and love give us hope that there is something beyond beauty and power and success and prestige. We have a hope that there is a tomorrow that holds more for us. And, with hope and faith, we can love. We can love knowing that He first loved us. We can love knowing that His love paid the ultimate price for us. We can love others knowing that in Christ Jesus, there is great freedom and promise and faith and hope...and plenty of unconditional love.