Love: A Theological Virtue

On Sunday, we looked at the virtue of LOVE. Love is in a special category of virtue called the theological virtues.

Theological virtues are virtues associated in Christian theology and philosophy with salvation resulting from the grace of God.

Traditionally, they have been named faith, hope, and charity, and can trace their importance in Christian theology to Paul the Apostle in 1 Corinthians 13, who also pointed out that “the greatest of these is love.”

The medieval philosopher Thomas Aquinas explained that these virtues are called theological virtues “because they have God for their object, both in so far as by them we are properly directed to Him, and because they are infused into our souls by God alone, as also, finally, because we come to know of them only by Divine revelation in the Sacred Scriptures.”

And they are huge themes for Paul as he writes to the Thessalonian Christ followers. In Paul’s letter to the Thessalonians, he declares that faithfulness, love, and hope are essential to the life, witness, and mission. It was true when he wrote it almost 2,000 years ago, and it’s true now.

This triad—from the very beginning of the Christian faith—is how we are to be formed as the people of God. To become a people of faith, hope, and love.

Look at 1 Thessalonians 1:2-3:

“We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And then again at the end of the letter, look at 1 Thessalonians 5:8:

“But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet.”

One of the great mystics of Christian history, the 16th century Spanish friar John of the Cross, had a very distinctive insight about faith, hope, and love. Like other theologians of his time, he took for granted a picture of the human mind that sees it as working in three basic ways: it understands, it remembers, and it wants.

The human mind is made up of the interaction of understanding, memory, and will.

The distinctive insight John of the Cross had was that if you match up understanding, memory, and will with faith, hope, and love you have a perfect picture of where we start, and where we finish.

He said faith is what happens to our understanding, hope is what happens to our memory (as we follow Christ), and love is what happens to our wills (and our wanting).

So, to grow as a disciple is to take the journey from:

  • understanding to faith
  • memory to hope
  • will to love

I encourage you to open yourself to God’s love today and to allow him to forge Christ’s love in your life.

Paul said: “And now these three (virtues) remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

I’m going to close this post with the same text from Scripture that I closed Sunday’s message with, Philippians 1:9-11 (The Message). It is a passage worth reading often and working into your personal efforts of character development as you allow Christ to be formed in you and simultaneously make every effort to develop the (theological) virtue of love.

So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God.

Pastor Aaron Kunce

 

Header image credit: Unsplash and Creativefabrica.com

Aaron Kunce

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