There was a time in my life (my late teens) where I looked upon faith as unnecessary. No, it wasn’t that I was being buffeted by doubt, succumbing to the naturalist siren-song of scientific materialism. I had no trouble believing—knowing even—that God was (is) real. The thing I was seeing at the time, while it may not have a name, was that love is more important than faith. Because it’s “faith which worketh by love.” (Galatians 5:6) And it wasn’t just that piece of a verse from Galatians that, taken way out of context, bade me lay down my focus on faith in light of love. I’ll tell you what it was, it was more a malformed and juvenile concept of the fullness of what it means to live the Christian life. I responded with something akin to disdain-tinged-with-derision whenever I heard of or read something by a Christian writer who chose to emphasize the concept of “faith” over “love”. It goes to show that having that response (the lack of love for the person speaking or writing) shows that I really didn’t have the true love of God in view and consequently didn’t see faith in its proper context, either. And before I go any further, I would have to say that I do believe that love is more important than faith. But they go hand in hand.
I mean, listing of the “fruits of the Spirit” in Galatians (see chapter 5), Paul rightly puts “love” at the top of the list with lowly “faith” at number seven (out of nine). That surely means something doesn’t it?
Which came first? The faith? Or the Love? Which keeps us going? Our faith in God? Or our love for Him? Hint: there comes a time when lining these things out, where it all becomes semantical and therefore loses real meaning. I will cite a couple of verses that when placed together, help round out the idea and ideal.
“That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,” (Ephesians 3:17, emphasis mine) Grounded. In love that is. To answer the question from the previous paragraph only, love comes first. How else could God have it? Honestly, I don’t have the experience of coming to God from a lifestyle of hardened sin or radical atheistic unbelief. I’ve seen some stuff, but my salvation experience didn’t bring with it any radical visions or sharply contrasted feelings to what I was already accustomed to. I was four and so pretty much my life was already one of childlike wonder and awe. Oh, it didn’t last, don’t kid yourself. When God (finally) reapproached me in my late teens, reactivating a faith that had, in many ways, lain dormant for the duration, it was the love that reminded me of who I was—who I’d truly been since four years of age. It’s like I’d been grounded for many years. Grounded in love, that is.
Here’s another way of looking at it: “As ye have therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk ye in Him: Rooted and built up in Him, and stablished in the faith, as ye have been taught, abounding therein with thanksgiving.” (Colossians 2:6-7, emphasis mine)
“Rooted and grounded in love”, “rooted and built up in Him”. These two statements placed side-by-side indicate that love is primary. And while “faith” may be bashed by non-believers, raked over the coals as an antiquated and outmoded superstition, true love is never viewed that way. True love is known when it’s seen. People love love. Sure, there are those who are disagreeable by-and-large. Those who actively hate. “Love (charity) shall cover the multitude of sins”, though (1 Peter 4:8). The same can’t be said for “faith” when it’s bereft of love. Love can get even to them. It might take a little longer but “time” is neither here nor there.
There’s a lot to this. “Faith and love” are not topics so easily dismissed and run roughshod over. Consider it from God’s perspective as Creator. Any and everything we have is a gift. The fact that He would even consider coming to me (as He does everyone) to invite me to partake of the salvation that Jesus secured through His sacrificial death is enough to render me speechless, breathless and prostrate for all time. Hell is not a fun place to be (!). Neither is the state of having never been created. Seen this way, our faith and our love take a back seat to Him in whom we are “rooted and grounded” and also “rooted and built up”. Which came first? God.
“Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11)