Does Love require Faith?

I started this post a few years ago but am finishing it now because of the post Walking by Faith which I shared with my pastor. The question I started working on here was “does Love require Faith” (and by extension Hope)?

After my pastor read the post he sent me a link to another in the same vein by someone with far better credentials. In that post the writer goes on to speak of the preeminence of love as declared in the second part of I Corinthians 13:13. The author states, “Paul can imagine faith without love but not love without faith”. I believe this is based on verse 2 of the same chapter: “…if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing” and verse 7 which states both faith and hope are inherent attributes of love. The Greek words for “believes” and “hopes” in this verse are the same words used in verse 13 to describe the eternal things, “Faith” and “Hope” .

So Verses 2 and 7 combine to validate the statement about what the Apostle Paul can imagine and in so doing answers the question of this post (Yes, Love requires Faith).

Some may say this reasoning is circular (it is not – we are not proving the Bible with the Bible we are using the Bible to answer a question). So let us consider this a different way.

Many years ago my wife and I were traveling in Germany. We were asked by a cab driver how we liked Germany and we naturally said we “loved it”. His reply, “You Americans ‘love’ everything. You don’t love it, you love each other, you merely like Germany”, was a lesson to both of us.

So lets be sure we agree about what love means, what we expect it to mean.

I think we should be able to agree that love is not need or selfish desire. I may need and desire food, but I can’t really love it.  Things I consume on myself like power or money may thrill me, but I do not love them. Love, as I believe most people understand it, involves interaction with others, and in fact is focused outwardly from our ourselves. (1)

Another key point is that love, by virtue of this outward focus, may not be a transaction i.e. purchased. That means I cannot love you because of what you do for me. I may like and enjoy your company but this can only be a by-product, an effect, never a cause. We understand this with parents and children(2). Another way to think about this is to recognize we universally agree love cannot be bought or sold. This means love may be reciprocated but it cannot depend on that reciprocation.

Another aspect of what we expect of love is found in time, or rather in endurance. Simply stated, “Love lasts”. I love my child or my sibling or my spouse because of who they are, not what they do. I don’t fall in and out of love with them, I love them because I have chosen to love them (3). If I subsequently choose to not love them that calls into question the reality of the original choice.

The thing most likely to trip us up is the fact that real desire is a fundamental part of love. Love desires goodness toward the loved. The world does generally agree what is meant by “goodness“, so we may say love wants to participate in providing peace, fulfillment  and well being to the loved. Said another way, “Love cares”.

Having identified what it is we are referring to when we say “love” there are at least two immediate reasons we can identify that demonstrate why love requires faith.

First, we have to believe it exists. It seems that the idea of a selfless enduring commitment is the stuff of fairy tails to many people. If we don’t believe love exists we will not be capable of it, nor will we be able to recognize it if we were to receive it.

Second, we must believe it matters. Essentially there can be no such thing as love without caring and we cannot care if we don’t believe it makes any difference (from here we may see Hope waiting in the wings). I think this follows from the idea of “goodness” which makes a value distinction between things. Because love requires effort (caring), the conviction of its value and impact on the loved needs to be there to activate/motivate/stimulate love. At the nub of it we must believe the one being loved is worth it.

This is where it can get confusing. We have already established that love cannot be a transaction (it is not earned) but we are claiming love is linked to the worth of the one being loved because of value. The answer is in the nature of love, the value we recognize cannot be self centered, that is the value of the loved is not merely their value to me (which may be prodigious), their value must be apart from me. Otherwise what we feel is not love if we have accurately described it.

The question then becomes what gives anyone value apart from their value to another person? The answer to that question is the same as the answer to the question: “What is the meaning of life”?

Two things should be clear at this point. We must believe there is a meaning to life and we must believe there is value in that meaning if we are to give real love.

It seems obvious to me that in order to receive the kind of love worth having (or give that kind of love) requires the lover have the self sacrificial love that can only come from faith. Anything else is dust and delusion.


  1. While it is true we must able love ourselves to love another, loving ourselves is never the point.
  2. To be clear I may be attracted to you because I like you but the transition to love is and must be more than that. The argument that I love my children because they mean the continuation of my genes (transaction) misrepresents what love is – it is an argument that denies the existence of love. The sad truth is not every parent loves their children. This is a higher order function. It is acceptable to sell puppies it is not acceptable to sell babies.
  3. The importance of choice to love is hard to overstate. Love must be given (chosen), it cannot be coerced or compelled. This is another reason why selfish desire (compulsion) must not be confused with love.
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