And now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:13
Chances are pretty good that you've heard the above passage at some point. Chances are more than pretty good that it was at a wedding. I think 1 Corinthians has occupied the number one most requested Bible passage for wedding now for decades. It is the crowd favorite. And because of the setting, it is easy to miss that middle word, "hope". When in the world did "hope" come into play? When was the last time the minister at a wedding went off on a tangent about "hope" being an important ingredient in marriage? Forgiveness, you bet. That is a daily need in a relationship. Love, well duh, why else get married? Yet, hope not only under-girds our relationships; but ultimately our connection with God. Hope is the chewy, caramel center of the faith candy bar.
Wait...you might say...shouldn't that be love? After all, Paul says above the love is the greatest. Love is number one...love is number one...feel free to chat along with me. Hope actually helps keep love grounded in reality. If all we do is talk about love, it can be a slippery slope. We can sound naive or easily fall into sappy sentimentalism. Yes, it is true, all you need is love. But a healthy dose of hope can help keep love going and growing. Hope is like fuel. Often, I think marriages fail as much because the couple falls out of love, as they fall out of hope. Hope that they might rekindle the love or hope that out of this difficult time a deeper love might be found. When we stop hoping that our best days are before us and instead are behind us, we've lost not only that loving feeling, but also our sense of hope.
Hope is (as Emily Dickinson wrote) a thing with feathers. It is light and flighty...it is hard to pin down. Love seems easier. I either feel love toward someone or I feel indifferent or I feel hostility. Hope, being like the Holy Spirit of Paul's trinity of words, holds out the possibility that I was wrong. Hope teaches me that my first impression about someone can be way off base, especially when I learn an important truth about why the person seems cold or indifferent. Hope teaches me to hold on and hold out for more understanding. Hope keeps searching and probing. Love can come and go in waves; but hope keeps asking us to hang in there.
Maybe it does not need to be only hope at the center of the faith candy bar. There is plenty of room for love too. But the two seem to need each other in wonderful, even delicious, ways. I think for love to last there needs to be hope. At the great end, when God's realm is fully realized, I am with Paul, love will be the greatest. Until then, I am hanging on to hope as equally as important for the living out of my faith as love. Together, they may just help us taste more than a trace of God's grace today and in the days to come.