Monday, March 7, 2016

Is Love greater than Faith?

And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. - 1 Corinthians 13:13

Is Love really greater than Faith? That's what Paul said, but it is not what the church teaches today. No, the church clearly places Faith above all else. 
Love is nice. It's kind of like the frosting on the cake. But it's not the thing that is going to get your ticket punched to get into heaven, according to most religious leaders today. You can be the most loving person in the world, but without the right kind of 'Faith' it is all for naught. But as long as you have Faith, Love is inconsequential. It's a nice extra - a bonus - but you can always be forgiven for not loving enough. But not having Faith is the unpardonable sin, according to church doctrine today.
So clearly, Faith is far more important and greater than Love.

And that is a shame. Because I think when you place faith ahead of love it turns the gospel message on its head. Because now instead of the "good news" that God so Loved the world that he gave his only son, we have the not-so-good news that the vast majority of people are going to hell because they failed to "believe in him" so that they would not perish...
The very next verse in John states "
For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him." But that's not what we are taught to believe today. Jesus may have come to "save the world," but he set the bar so high that only a relatively small group of people will pass the entrance exam.

But wait a minute! The test isn't THAT hard, is it? All you have to do is "accept the free gift of salvation." Simple! Anyone who turns down a gift like that is probably deserving of their fate. Right? At least, that's what we are led to believe. But is it really that simple? Apparently, even for those who are raised in the Christian religious tradition, it is a perilous and narrow path that few manage to travail during the course of a lifetime. How much harder then for people raised outside of this faith tradition, that they would be required to turn their back on their family, friends, neighbors and everyone they ever loved who passed on before them. In order to save themselves, they have to accept the idea that everyone else they have ever loved will be suffering eternal torment. What kind of heaven would that be for them? No wonder it is difficult to find converts among the modern-day gentiles. 

When Paul set out to convert the Gentiles he was determined to lower the bar so that more people could get in. He argued in his letters that Gentile converts should not be forced to circumcise themselves or follow all the complex dietary and ceremonial laws that defined the faith tradition for Jews of that time. Paul argued that the Gentiles and the Jews alike were all justified by Christ's death on the cross. But by emphasizing the faith aspect over the love component, today's Christian leaders have raised the bar back again to a level that I don't think Paul intended.