Dear Sisters and Brothers,
Yesterday’s letter outlined the first three Moravian essentials: God creates, God redeems, and God sustains.
The following essentials are how we respond to our Creator/Redeemer/Sustainer.
The fourth essential is faith. Hebrews 11:1-3 says “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Indeed, by faith our ancestors received approval. By faith we understand that the worlds were prepared by the word of God, so that what is seen was made from things that are not visible.” The Apostle Paul tells us that we cannot take credit for our own faith, but that it is a gift from God. Faith is the desire to know God, the attraction of spiritual things, and the root of belief, devotion, and sanctification. Faith is often confused with belief and the two words are often used interchangeably, but faith leads to belief. It is usually experienced as a subconscious feeling or discernment that God is real and trustworthy.
The fifth essential is love. Not merely a rosy feeling and not selfish love, but love that reaches out and works in the world without thought of payment or exchange. We do not love God to earn his favor, but we love God in response because he loved us first. We are called to love God whole heartedly, and to love neighbor as much as we love ourselves. This love is a motivator, but it motivates out of thankfulness instead of need. Chapter four of the First Letter of John puts it this way, “And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them. This is how love is made complete among us so that we will have confidence on the day of judgment: In this world we are like Jesus. There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.” So Christian love is always seen in some sort of beneficial action that demands nothing in return. Love leads us to mercy, compassion, friendship, acceptance, patience, speaking, listening, study, celebration, the feeding of the hungry, and hundreds of other actions, behaviors, and good works. It is the motivating force that guides us in all that we do.
The sixth essential is hope. Hope is the opposite of despair. Hope is the gift of knowing that the long night will lead to dawn. Hope rises assurance that we are loved by God and that God’s love is eternal, so that we will be loved eternally. Hope is the confidence that God gives us that we can have absolute assurance that our eternal relationship has been redeemed by the Son, and is sustained by the Holy Spirit.
Along with these essentials are the behaviors and practices that are guided by the teachings of Christ, so we consider Holy Communion, communal and individual prayer, Baptism, and worship centered on the reading of Scripture to be essential, but we do not consider any detailed implementation of these or other actions as essential.
For the sake of our Christian identity, it is good to ponder what is essential. No doubt, God has given each person some insights that would make difference in the way each of us describes the essentials, but I’ve done this today to remind you of who we are and why we have faith, hope, and love.