Does it seem like there is a lot of mistrust, fear, and hate in our world these days? The very opposite of faith, hope, and love? It does to me. I look at our world today and see mistrust everywhere – a lack of trust in our politicians, our media, and even in one another. And this mistrust leads to fear – how can it not? And this fear, I believe, is what is fueling the hate so prevalent in our world. And these three seem to keep feeding on each other and growing. More hate leading to more mistrust leading to more fear. What will stop the cycle? “What the world needs now is love, sweet love,” the song famously says, but I don’t believe that love alone is the answer. What our world needs now is not just love, because love without faith and hope is like a plant without sunlight or water. It will eventually wither away. Our world needs love, but it also needs faith and hope. These three, together, are the antidote needed for the mistrust, fear, and hate so prevalent in our world today. If you like Haikus, here is one for you:
What our world needs now Is not just love, but faith and Hope in God above
What the world does not need now is more mistrust, fear, and hate. Martin Luther King Jr. once said that “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” I believe that same thing applies here. Mistrust cannot drive out mistrust. Fear cannot drive out fear. Hate cannot drive out hate. What is needed are their opposites, the “theological virtues” of faith, love, and hope. “Faith, hope, and love abide, these three;” Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians, “and the greatest of these is love.” The greatest is love, but all three are great and all three are needed. Because only faith can drive out mistrust; only hope can drive out fear; and only love can drive out hate.
It was Thomas Aquinas who first called faith, hope, and love the “theological virtues.” Why? “Because they have God for their object,” he writes, “both in so far as by them we are properly directed to God, and because they are infused into our souls by God alone.” What does he mean by that? Faith, hope, and love are “properly directed to God,” meaning that our faith, or trust, is in God, as is our hope and our love. At the root of the mistrust in our world, it seems to me, is not a lack of trust in each other, but in God. Our world, for the most part, might believe in God, but does our world trust in God? Does our world trust that there is a loving God who created us, who loves us, and who wants what is best for us? Do we? Not just believe, but trust? Mistrust in God leads to mistrust in others. It is a cancer that grows and crowds out faith, but also hope and even love. Because this mistrust ultimately leads to fear, and fear leads to hate.
And more mistrust and cynicism will never drive out our world’s lack of faith in God and in one another, but only feed it. Faith and trust in God is what will drive out mistrust, nothing else. When we truly believe that the God who created us also loves us, our mistrust begins to wither away, and is replaced by a faith and a trust in God that helps us to see the world in a new way: with hope.
Hope in God is what will drive out fear. More fear will never drive out fear. There will never be a security system sophisticated enough to drive out fear. A bank account big enough. A government powerful enough. Because they are all based on fear. And more fear is not the answer. Hope is. The philosopher, Martha Nussbaum, writes in “The Monarchy of Fear” that “hope is the opposite or flip side of fear. Both react to uncertainty, but in opposing ways. Hope expands and surges forward, fear shrinks back. Hope is vulnerable, fear self-protective.” (I came across this quote in this blog article, which also inspired me to write my Haiku. Thank you!) This kind of hope can only be found through our faith in God. When we trust in God we are willing to surge forward and be vulnerable. We are no longer driven by fear, but by hope. We trust those wonderful words written in Jeremiah’s letter to the Israelites in exile: “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope” (Jeremiah 29:11). When we trust in this promise, the promise of a future with hope, we are no longer driven by fear. And we are ready to choose the vulnerable path of love.
Love, Martin Luther King Jr. said, is what will drive out hate. And I believe that. But love needs faith and hope to fuel it. If we do not trust in God, and if we do not have hope, how can we choose love? Mistrust leads to fear, and fear leads to hate, and these can only be driven out by faith and hope and love, these three. Love is the greatest, but love without faith and without hope withers away. Love is a plant that needs water and sunlight. It needs faith and hope. When we trust in God, and believe in the future with hope that God promises, our love receives all the water and sunlight it needs to grow. Our love grows, and bears fruit, and this fruit begins to replace the hate and the fear and the mistrust that seem to grow like weeds when unattended.
Faith, hope, and love abide, these three, all “infused into our souls by God alone.” And our world is hungry for these gifts. It is feeding on the junk food of mistrust, fear, and hate, and it is sick. Our world needs a real meal. Our world needs love. But also faith, and hope.
So let us pray for more faith and hope and love in our world. Let’s give up trying to drive out the mistrust, fear, and hate in our world with more of the same. Instead, let’s continue to trust in God, and to share our hope, and to love this world that God so dearly loves. These three are what our world needs. And we are the way that God provides them. You and me, sharing our faith, hope, and love, until there is no more mistrust, fear, or hate. It is, and always will be, the more excellent way.