Paul said in I Cor. 13:13 “Faith, hope, and love abide, these three, but the greatest of these is love.” Yes, faith matters but love matters more. When I became a pastor in 1965, the Church was placing a heavy emphasis on faith. But the word faith did not mean the same to everyone.
At that time there was a charismatic movement sweeping the country. Some people in that movement said that if you were not able to speak in tongues, you were not a Christian. Faith was related to one’s ability to speak in tongues.
For others faith was primary in the question, “Do you believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior?” Many believed that if you did not have faith in Jesus, you would go straight to hell when you died. Read Ps.88. Hell is the place everyone went when one died. It is called Sheol, the pit, or the grave. Hell is not a place of punishment. In fact, it is part of a three story universe which does not exist.
The word faith is also used in the question, What faith are you? That question is asking, Are you Catholic, Protestant, or Jew; or are you a Presbyterian, Methodist, or UCC?
In the 16thC the Reformers said that our relationship with God is one of faith. The Reformers made a major change in the theological direction in saying that we are save by faith not by works. So the words faith and believing became primary words in one’s life as a Christian since the 1600’s.
But there is a difference in believing in someone or believing someone. Believing someone means we believe what they said is true. Believing in someone means we believe in the person. We trust or have confidence in that person.
Prior to the 1600’s believing came from the old English ‘be loef’ meaning to hold dear. To believe in the person, one would hold dear in their heart. Believing and beloving carried the same meaning.
So when Jesus was asked, Which commandment was the greatest? He did not say to believe in the commandment to be true. He simply said to love the Lord with one’s whole heart and to love one’s neighbor as your self. Thus we have faith (love) in God knowing we are loved as Christ loved and is loving us.
The Rev. Russ Brandt, Author