We’ve explored the metaphor of a house before to illustrate many ideas in Christianity. For instance, as United Methodists, we believe in something called the Wesleyan Quadrilateral. We use the bible, church tradition, human reason, and our own experience to make sense of faith matters. (In a series a few years ago, I described this as having a “house” of faith, with the bible being the foundation, and so forth!).
We all know that how we build a physical house is important. A well-crafted one most certainly needs a solid foundation, or else it will cause problems in the future. I recall house-hunting several years ago and visiting a competitively-priced cottage in Little Rock. There were obvious foundation problems and the entire structure was slanted to one side. Even the kitchen cabinet doors wouldn’t stay closed! What we place at the bottom matters quite a bit.
Jesus himself also used a similar illustration with foundations, specifically in Matthew 5:24-27 with the teaching on the wise and foolish builders:
Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash.
The important lesson to learn is to build one’s house on a solid foundation. Putting Jesus’ words into practice is like having a rock-solid foundation for your future. Trials and tribulations should not utterly destroy you as you stand firm.
We also sing about foundations, as noted by a classic hymn in our hymnals:
How firm a foundation, you saints of the Lord,
is laid for your faith in his excellent Word!
What more can he say than to you he has said,
to you who for refuge to Jesus have fled?
Broadly speaking, 1 Corinthians 13 also speaks of “foundational” matters—those things that matter most. Love, according to Paul and as we saw in our sermon yesterday, is the virtue that is most important. Consider what else he had to say about this character quality in verses 1-3:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Speaking in tongues, prophesying, and charity are certainly wonderful gifts. Yet without the love of God in our heart, these amount to absolutely nothing. The loveless tongue-speaker, prophet, or philanthropist all do it for show or the praise of other people. Without that foundation of love, we are nothing.
There is another hymn, “The Gift of Love”, that summarizes this important foundational idea:
Though I may speak with bravest fire,
And have the gift to all inspire,
And have not love, my words are vain,
As sounding brass, and hopeless gain.
Though I may give all I possess,
And striving so my love profess,
But not be given by love within,
The profit soon turns strangely thin.
Come, Spirit, come, our hearts control,
Our spirits long to be made whole.
Let inward love guide every deed;
By this we worship, and are freed.