The greatest of these is charity

love Dec 16, 2018

Charity - the pure love of Christ - is a guiding light in these turbulent times. It encompasses many attributes, including kindness and patience, but is also fiercely committed to truth and righteousness.

The apostle Paul, in his first epistle to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 13:1-2,13), said:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not acharity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of aprophecy, and understand all bmysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

...

And now abideth afaith, bhope, ccharity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

Without charity - the pure love of Christ - we are nothing because we cannot fully live in harmony with those around us.

The greek word used in Paul's original letters was "agape" - which is more commonly translated into English as "love" - but it was differentiated from "philia", which is brotherly love, or "eros", which is sexual love. Agape refers to the love of God for man. C.S. Lewis uses agape in his book "The Four Loves" to describe the highest form of love - a love that is deeply committed to the well-being of others.

Mormon, a prophet of God in Ancient America, calls charity the "pure love of Christ" (Moroni 7:47). Like Paul (1 Corinthians 13:4-7), Mormon also lists the attributes of charity (Moroni 7:45):

And acharity suffereth long, and is bkind, and cenvieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily dprovoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Many of these attributes are common to society's general understanding of the attributes of love. Certainly love is patient, kind, non-envious and non-prideful. But true charity is also committed to truth and righteousness.

Why is a commitment to truth and righteousness so important to charity, the pure love of Christ? In my experience, when I ignored the commitment to truth and righteousness required by charity, I found that I tended to pay attention to only the most visible opportunities to be kind. In those cases, I wanted to be able to say, for example, that a same-sex couple should be able to adopt children or that it doesn't matter if a man and a woman live together and have children without the commitment of marriage. I wanted to ignore the poor choices of my children so I wouldn't have to have the uncomfortable experience of telling them they were doing something wrong. It sounds kind on the surface to do these things because it can feel mean to tell someone that what they are doing is wrong. The problem is that this viewpoint ignores the needs and rights of others. It ignores the needs of children to have a mother and a father that are committed to each other and to building a framework for the support of future generations. It ignores the needs and rights of others not to be hurt by the poor choices of my children. A love without a commitment to truth and righteousness has no mooring to determine which desires and rights of individuals within society should take precendence in various situations. Such a false notion of love quickly devolves into expressions of affirmation of selfishness, which at its core is simply cowardice.

Avoiding saying that children deserve to have a mother and a father who are committed to each other is not love. Avoiding telling a child that they need to make better choices is also not love. True love recognizes the needs of all, not just the needs of the individual. True love balances the needs and desires of everyone in society by using truths to adjuicate situations where those rights come into conflict. True love recognizes that all actions taken by individuals have an impact on society as a whole and that therefore choices must have defined boundaries. We cannot define ourselves without speaking of our relationship to others - and so true love must take into account all of those relationships.

If I do not speak to truth when necessary, I am not truly being loving - I am being cowardly and selfish. Charity, therefore, is more than just kindness to those experiencing the most visible pain - it is a deep desire for the well being of all men that uses truths to arbitrate between the needs of all.