Once upon a time, in a land not so far, far away, there lived a young, newlywed couple. They were devout Christians. They walked righteously before God and found favour in His sight. God blessed them with good health, wealth, large and fertile farmland with lots of herds, and life was good for them.
However, they were without a child because the woman was barren and could not conceive. As the years rolled by and they grew older, but still without a child, they became increasingly worried and wondered if they would ever be able to have a child. Nonetheless, they remained faithful and in love with God and with each other, and continued to hope that may be one day, just one day, God would finally answer their prayers and bless them with a child. But just when it appeared they were becoming despondent and their patience and hope running low, and they thought their chances of having a child were getting slimmer, the woman had a dream, in which an Angel of God appeared to her. The Angel reassured her that their prayers had been heard and answered, and that God had prepared multiple blessings for the couple.
When the woman woke up from her sleep, she ecstatically related the dream to her husband. They deliberated on the promise from the Angel and continued to reflect with great anticipation on what the Angel could have meant by “multiple blessings”. Three months after the angelic visitation, the woman noticed she had conceived. The couple were ecstatic and praised God for His faithfulness and for making good His promise. As the months went by and the pregnancy developed, the initial joy gave way to unbelievable astonishment and greater joy when the couple realised they were expecting not just one but three babies. This indeed, they thought, must be the “multiple blessings” that God had promised.
As they continued to await the birth of the triplet, so did they continue to prayerfully deliberate on what should be the befitting names to give to the babies they were expecting. When the pregnancy reached full term and the delivery day came, the woman gave birth to three precious and gorgeous babies. As with tradition in the land, seven days after their birth, at a solemn but poignant ceremony, the babies were christened and given the names: Faith, Hope, and Love.
The couple had waited so long for God to fulfil His promise to them. They had waited in faith and hope, whilst remaining in love with each other. So they thought it was only appropriate and befitting to reflect their longsuffering relationship with God and with each other by choosing such names to give their babies.
For a quite a while afterward, there was great rejoicing in the household and indeed in the whole land for this family and the way God had expressed His faithfulness to them. As the babies strode through their individual milestones and were making their passage through adolescent phase of development, so did their individual personalities and characters start to crystallise and become more defined.
The parents started to notice with concern, instances of bickering and argument among their three children, as they started to posture and jostle for position and power, and to define amongst themselves who was the ‘greatest’.
As the dynamic among the children became more ‘political’ and with no meaningful resolution in the horizon, the parents decided to seek divine intervention. They prepared a referral letter, outlining their journey with God, culminating in the birth of their children, and the worrying pattern of struggle for position that appeared to be have since developed among the children. They then sent the letter to an address in the neighbouring land where it was thought a legendary Counsellor was living.
Legend had it that this Counsellor was Himself conceived of the Holy Spirit after prophetic predictions and angelic visitation about two thousand years previously, and his birth was acclaimed throughout the world. This Counsellor was also severally called, Wonderful, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace [Isaiah 9: 6]. So, the couple thought there was no better source to consult to help resolve the issues about the children than this Man, the Prince of Peace Himself and the all-knowing Wonderful Counsellor.
Seven days afterward, the couple received a reply from the Counsellor, stating that He had completed His mission on earth and had departed into Heaven to be with the His Father and to prepare a place for the faithful, but would return at a time appointed by His Father to dispense judgement and take the faithful home with Him. The Counsellor then advised the couple to go to one of His anointed Apostles and disciples, called Paul, who would minister to the children and the family, and through divine discernment resolve the question as to who was the ‘greatest’ among the children.
So, the family got in touch with Paul the Apostle, and an appointment was arranged for him to meet the family at a certain location in a town called ‘Corinth’. When the appointment day came, the couple with their three children: Faith, Hope, and Love, set out early in the morning to undertake the long and often treacherous journey to ‘Corinth’ [a city in modern day Turkey] to meet Paul the Apostle.
So, at a very convivial meeting and after prayers, Paul began to ‘counsel’ the three children. He started by outlining how the whole of humankind had sinned through the first couple called, Adam and Eve, and how God had vented His indignation through a series of events, culminating in the great flood, and after which God had compassion on the work of His creation and sent His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as an atonement for the sin of mankind. Paul talked about his own previous rebellious life and anti-Christ activities and how on his way to Damascus to persecute the followers of Christ, he was confronted by Jesus Christ Himself. He talked about how he was pardoned, and became an ardent believer and an instrument for the propagation of Christ’s message of salvation, mercy and love, especially among the Gentiles.
In his attempts at deciphering who was the greatest among the threesome, starting with Love, Paul began to address the family on the unique attributes of each of the three names that the couple had been given to their children.
Paul quoted copiously from several passages in the Bible. He remarked that Love is the very nature of God, quoting that “Whoever does not love, does not know God, for God is Love” [1 John 4: 8]; “In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him. In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another” [1 John 9-11]; “And we have known and believed the love that God has for us. God is love, and he or she who abides in love, abides in God, and God in him or her” [1 John 4: 16].
Paul also made reference to his own previous letter of admonition to the Church in Corinth as recorded in 1 Corinthians 13: 1-8, where he outlined the very specific attributes of Love: “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. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.”
Next, Paul brought the focus of his counselling to Faith. Paul began by offering a definition of Faith, stating as recorded in Hebrew 11: 1-3, that Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good testimony. For by Faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that the things which are seen were not made of things which are visible.”
He then went on to provide an honour roll of some of the faithful who were regarded in the Bible as the models of Faith, ranging from Abel to Enoch, to Noah, to Abraham, to Sarah, to Isaac and Jacob, to Joseph and Moses, to Rahab the harlot, and to Gideon, Barak, Samson, Jephthah, David, Samuel, and the prophets.
As for Hope, Paul in his wisdom, opined that Hope and Faith are embedded and almost synonymous to each other. He cited various passages in the Bible [including the Psalms] that provide some illustrations and examples of the demonstration of Hope.
Paul concluded his ‘counselling’ session with Faith, Hope, and Love, and their parents by concluding thus: “now abide Faith, Hope, Love, these three; but the greatest of these is Love” [1 Corinthians 13: 13].
What are the implications of Paul’s discernment for us as believers and followers of our Lord Jesus Christ. The message of salvation is the message of Faith, Hope and Love. In our journey and relationship with God, we need to be equipped with all three as they are not mutually exclusive of one another. However, while Faith and Hope come from within the individual believer and nurtured by the Holy Spirit, Love comes from God. God is Love, and Love is the very nature of God. When God sent His only begotten Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as an atonement for the sin of humankind, He was in effect coming down to our level to share His very nature, which is Love, with us.
As Christians, we need to respond to this kind gesture with Faith and Hope, just as did the afore-mentioned forebears of Faith. Upon Love is anchored our Faith and Hope. Hence, the reason Paul regards Love as the ‘greatest’. When we show Love to others, we are in effect reflecting the very nature of God. However, we cannot reflect God unless we have Faith and Hope in Him through our Lord Jesus Christ.