Lesson 17: Faith, Hope, and Love In Decision Making

Faith Hope LoveIt’s fine to speak of Christianity being unconditional love all the way down. It’s exhilarating to read St. Isaac of Syria write of even Hell being filled with God’s love. However, it is frustrating when various Christian groups totally disagree on what comprises loving actions in real life and death situations. And it is downright depressing when people professing Christ advocate vicious violence as acts of love.

Admittedly, love’s adaptability is one of its positive qualities. Nonetheless, we have tremendous problems defining what is loving in the present situation. We obviously need to examine what goes into making Christian decisions.

I have increasingly come to think of this as a conversation that introduces God’s voice by utilizing the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love. Although we generally think of these as separate virtues, it is helpful to acknowledge their interaction in which faith informs and hope inspires loving actions.

Faith, in this case, is not simply believing that there is a god out there secretly directing things from behind some sort of cosmic screen. The Christian God has a history and, just like the rest of us, is known by that story. Faith is trusting that narrative that reports God as a father acting in steadfast love and mercy, unconditional love in modern talk. Although God’s actions vary in particulars according to time and place, they all can be described as responding to need in creative, healing, and saving ways. They mend a broken creation, overcome suffering, and correct self-destruction.

Hope derives from the promises found in God’s story and is expressed in visions of the future, such as the peaceable kingdom, the just society, and the beloved community. None of these are a blind optimism in God’s benevolence as each is filled with content that impacts our decision-making. Perhaps the nature of hope is best expressed in our day when activists for civil rights join hands and sing “We shall overcome.” Those singing might not share visions of a particular political program but all are committed to justice for all in the future.

Faith’s story and hope’s promise provide a pretty clear picture of what loving actions look like in any situation. That picture is not dependent on eternal doctrines or authoritarian control but rather on conversation in which believers address each need in its own peculiar context. It is evident that this does not promise unanimity, but humble conversation that includes listening as well as freely expressing ones own views certainly offers more creative moral guidance than we have been witnessing in our nihilistic time

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  1. Kerry Walters says:

    Fritz, I just can’t tell you how much your last few essays have meant to me. They’ve given me and the entire parish so much to think and pray about! Thank you!!!


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