“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.
Nothing worth doing is completed in our lifetime, Therefore, we are saved by hope.
Nothing true or beautiful or good makes complete sense in any immediate context of history;Therefore, we are saved by faith.
Nothing we do, however virtuous, can be accomplished alone. Therefore, we are saved by love.
No virtuous act is quite a virtuous from the standpoint of our friend or
foe as from our own; Therefore, we are saved by the final form of love
which is forgiveness.
– Reinhold Neibuhr
I may or may not use this in my sermon for this coming Sunday (at our Welcome Table service), but for me it is certainly a provocative quote. Forgiveness is the way our faith, hope and love are embodied in our lives. This was, at least true for Jesus, and it should be true for his followers as well. Forgiveness is also how mercy and grace are in evidence in and through us.
One possible text for Sunday is John 9:8-10 – verses not used in the Revised Common Lectionary at all (a crying shame if you ask me). Here we find Jesus showing mercy and grace to a woman caught in adultery and facing the “stoning squad.” “Neither do I condemn you,” he tells her, “Go and leave your life of sin behind.”
Leaving behind our own “lives of sin” is possible only if we experience forgiveness of the magnitude that Jesus offered that nameless woman so long ago. It is only possible if we have tasted grace and felt mercy. And once this has happened to us, we have no choice but to offer the same to others.
1 Corinthians 13
If I speak with great eloquence, conviction and beauty, but do so without love, my words are little more than bombastic bellowing or a grating noise.
And though I have the power to speak for God and understand every mystery and comprehend all knowledge, and if I have all the faith that could move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
And though I give away everything I possess, and even if I offer my own body as a sacrifice to the flames of fire, but have not love, I have gained nothing.
Love is patient; love is kind. Love does not envy, love is not arrogant or proud. It does not act unseemly; it is not self-seeking, not easily provoked, and does not dwell on evil. It does not rejoice at injustice, but rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, has faith in all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.
As for prophecies, they will vanish away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it too will end. For now we know in part and prophesy in part, but when all is brought to completion, then all that is partial will pass away.
When I was I child, I spoke as a child, I thought as a child, I reasoned like a child. But when I became an adult, I put away childish ways. For now we see as in a mirror darkened and distorted, but then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know even as I am fully known.
And so it is that faith, hope and love live and dwell within us, these three; but the greatest of these is love.