Good post, Paradosis.
First off, regarding the "which came first? Grace or faith?" debate, I welcome any and all, if you haven't already, to read the famous Conference 13 of St. John Cassian
, which shows us that this all is, ultimately, unknowable, that Christ our God demands that we follow Him, yet Himself gives us the grace to do this. Or, as someone has said, "The household of faith has two signs above the door. From the outside, one reads, 'Choose you this day whom you will serve,' and, once inside, the other sign above the inside of the door reads, 'You did not choose Me; I chose you.'" We are told to cooperate with God, but can only do so by His grace.
I am asking these questions because I want to believe with a deep faith. However, I sin and fall again and again...so my love of God is not as strong as it should be.
True. Neither is mine, nor that of any other person. Much of the growth is found in the struggle, not the victory. The victory comes about after we struggle, not before. Forgiveness and grace are there to raise us up afterwards and, by repentance, heal our wounds so that we can continue on.
In theory, being a christian (if one truly loves our Lord) shouldn't be that difficult....but alas it is the hardest thing for me. I am still just working on always having a rememberance of Him and giving thanks for all that He has given me.
Theories are funny things. They are often proved wrong by living life. In reality, following Christ demands a cross, and falling under the weight of that Cross is something we all do. The One to Whom we are united got back up, however, and will help us do the same. If we stay down, however, in spite of His help, there's nothing more He will do.
This brings me back to the verse in James about the righteous man's prayer "availing much." It is true that the Scripture says that "to him that hath, more will be given," yet this is seen as a natural consequence of the man's cooperation with the grace available to all men. Think of it as a layer of grace, of the ever-presence of the Holy Spirit here on earth. All are able to respond (thanks to God), but some will respond, while others will not. A sort of "chain reaction" develops (if one can call it that), wherein those who take the first step find it easier to take the next one. Those who refuse a step find it harder to take the next one, and often must be broken through repentance in order to take the next step.
These are my thoughts--take them as being worth what I'm charging you for them
--and, again, let St. John Cassian speak instead of me, for his voice is much more gracious than mine.