The Goal is Love, not Faith

Consider this:
St. John writes that by God dwelling in us love is perfected with us so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as He is so also are we in this world (1 Jn 4:16-17).
He goes on to write that perfect love casts our fear. Fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love. So we do not fear the day of judgment because we love as God loves (cf. above, “as He is so also are we in this world”). And we know that God dwells in us because we love (4:12).

The point is this: we know that faith justifies (1 Jn. 5:4, to stick with the same apostle), and we know that whoever loves not knows not God (4:8). Love, then, is begotten of faith (we’re all quite comfortable with this), and faith is begotten of God’s love (Jn. 3:16-17). So the goal is not faith but love. Not that we are justified by love, but “whoever does not love abides in death” (1 Jn. 3:14). What good is it, then, if we say we love God and hate our neighbor (every apostle asks this question). Moreover, I don’t think love is something we work toward in the same way that we don’t work toward faith, but that both faith and love are given to us by the Spirit. What else can be concluded from the apostle saying that our confidence on the day of judgment is that we love (1 Jn. 4:17)?

So what does this mean for the Law/Gospel paradigm we are all familiar with? Or, more pointedly, what does this mean for preachers? We all know we ought not preach the Law as comfort, yet John preaches love as comfort (1 Jn. 3:14; 4:4:16-17). We may say that love is the evidence of faith, but I think the apostle speaks stronger than that. He says love is the evidence of the indwelling of God. Is it strong enough language simply to say that if we have faith we will love our neighbor (often the end we give St. James’ admonition to love in mercy).

Should we be preaching about love the same way we preach about faith? We Not that love justifies (I suppoe to a bunch of Lutherans I can’t say this enough), but that faith and love are both gifts, never to be thought of as us adding to them, but rather that faith is always apprehended in love (which includes the good confession, cf. 1 Jn. 5:1 and 4:7, which seem to say the same thing, one using faith and the other love)? We already preach the same about faith and love in that we preach a trust that is not in our faith nor in our love but in Christ.

This seems to ramble a bit, but I hope to spark some conversation.

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