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Faith, Hope, and Love

“And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. The greatest of these is love.”

This phrase was the topic at a spiritual meeting I attended over the weekend, and it has been stuck in my head ever since.

“And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. The greatest of these is love.”

How many times have we heard those words?

Well, I guess that all depends on if you’re Christian. And how many Christian weddings you’ve attended.

Because let me tell you— this phrase is on the Mount Rushmore of Things to Say at Christian Weddings.

Right behind anything from “Oh, The Places You’ll Go” by Dr. Seuss:

“You're off to Great Places!

Today is your day!

Your mountain is waiting,

So... get on your way!”

“And now these three remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. The greatest of these is love.”

These two sentences are the culmination of a longer passage from the New Testament. They’re not written by Jesus, but by Paul. You all know Paul, the guy who used to kill Christians until a vision problem made him see things differently. As someone who has had a vision problem these last few months, I can understand how effective a deterrent they can be. Ever since the end of March I’ve been seeing at about 15% out of my right eye, and I get why he made the change. “So if I stop killing these Christians, I don’t have to wear this eye patch while I write any more? Sign. Me. Up!”

Another interesting thing about this famous passage is that it is not found in a story. It’s part of a letter. Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians. A good portion of the New Testament are letters, written from the leader of one early Christian community to the next. These were such early days that they didn’t even call themselves Christians yet. They were followers of “The Way”, and “The Way” liked to write letters.

Which is weird to me, because a lot of people believe in the inerrancy of the bible, that every single word of it is true and inspired by God, and my question is—can we really trust letters? I had pen pal in high school, and I just was trying to get that girl to like me. But, Paul’s letters were different. Maybe because they were to more than one person? In a one on one letter I could be as shady as I wanted to be. I wasn’t. I wasn’t shady at all, actually. My letters were super cheesy and highly poetic and usually exaggerated, but not shady.

And while Paul was writing a letter, yes, they weren’t to one person. He was writing knowing that all the Corinthians would read it. As well as everyone at John and Stacey’s wedding in 1997. Paul was really writing a group chat. Or a Blog! The problem is the word blog doesn’t have quite the same punch as the word letter. A Letter sounds strong and sexy. Leads me to think that passionate ideas are being exchanged and argued about in firm but loving ways.

“This is a Reading of Paul’s Second Letter to the Corinthians.”

“This is a Reading of David’s Third Blog to the Tumblrs.”

Yeah. Not the same at all.


So this weekend at my spiritual meeting, this passage was one of the topics. Because of my book, I’ve been thinking about these words more than normal recently. You put “Hope” in the title of something you wrote and people are going to ask you about it. And because of what Paul wrote almost two thousand years ago, the words Faith and Love are tied together with Hope for all eternity, for better and for worse. Like it’s some sort of a celestial battle royal, with Love coming out on top every single time.

You think Love is bragging about all that winning? Think love is all like, “Sorry, I’m the greatest!” With faith and hope sitting there like, I didn’t even know we were competing!

After my thing ended, I spent the next hour really thinking about those words, Faith, Hope, Love. What they mean. Why, according to Paul, Love is the greatest.

I think it’s because Faith means doing something that, despite it being really hard, we know it will turn out well in the end. We’ve been down the road enough times. We know it for a fact. So just keep on going. No matter what happens, just keep— on— going.

Hope is different. Hope costs. Hope means that we have some evidence, a little, not much, that what we’re doing can work. It’s not proven, but worth it to give it a try.

And then there is Love. I think love means that we have no clue weather it works or not.

We see all the great things Faith does for for people. We see what Hope does for people, too. We want that for us. Desperately. With every fiber of our being. But we know how hard it is, and that there are no promises being made. We we sit there and we love through the uncertainty.

That’s why it’s the greatest. Because it costs the most, and has the least promise of success. Yet still, we show up. And yet still, we do it anyway.

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