Like individuals, I believe the best features of the gathered community are faith, hope, and love.
Faith is so much more than correct beliefs. Faith is righteous actions. James claims that the Devil has correct beliefs but does not get it when it comes to submission to God. Jesus says according to Matthew that many people say “Lord” but don’t do God’s will. Faith works through love, it says somewhere else. And the righteous shall live by faith, it says at different places. Righteousness then is best defined as acting justly. Faith is living justly.
What this means for a church is how we treat each other justly, and our neighbors justly, and work for justice in the world, is more important than our creed, and our words in general. And a lack of justice in the church is a break down of integrity. We need to cultivate justice and self correct our errors in this wherever we find them.
Hope is another essential feature of a church. It begins with accepting each other and ourselves just as we are. In this it is the practical application of God’s grace. In this acceptance we find hope for ourselves. Here is a place where we are accepted and belong. Here is a place where we can rest. Here is a place where we can be loved as we really are. This is a kind of peace that passes understanding that God loves us after all. And we grow in our trust of God regarding our difficulties. And we generate positive hope for others by extending our circle of moral concern. If God has the whole world in God’s hands, there is hope for everyone. And we do not just hope for the change, we become the change, which brings the world hope.
And the greatest of these is love. Love is wholesome relationship. Love is patient and kind. Love is gracious and forgiving. Love is honest and willing to confront falsehood. Love is the fundamental underlying nature of the universe because God is love, and everything is made by God. When we love we are at our best and call forth the best in others. We all need to love and be loved like fish need water to live. “The greatest of these is Love”, wrote Paul.
If our church is generating and exhibiting faith, hope, and love, it does not matter if we are big or little. It does not matter if we are old or young. It does not matter if we are rich or poor. If we have faith hope and love, we are living in the heart of God. And life is good. Faith, hope and love are very good.
“And the greatest of these is love.”