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The Greatest of These...

mountain along Algerian coastline
If hope leads to faith and faith the size of a mustard seed moves mountains, what can charity, “the greatest of these,” do. (1 Cor. 13: 13)

I've been contemplating this for days. I wish I had an answer. It seems that charity is the crowning attribute that all others fall into, and I've wondered how I can acquire it.

I’m of course selfishly interested. It seems charity can “cover the multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:8)

I’m not sure that charity wipes away our sins, but I think having charity eliminates a desire to sin, or at least transcends the visceral emotions that so often lead to sin. Which begs the question: What then is charity?

Paul says:
“Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.” (1 Cor. 13:4-7)


It seems Paul is saying that charity isn't something you do, but something you are. His other statements muddy the water even more:

“Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.” 1( Cor. 13:1-3)

I find the last sentence particularly interesting. The idea of giving to the poor seems the clearest definition of what we consider “charity” to be, but I think Paul is trying to say that charity is a state of being that certainly motivates, but moves beyond, the giving of alms.

While I’m comforted by that thought, I’m also overwhelmed by it. It’s easier to give of my substance than it is of myself, let alone trying to change my character.

I suppose I’m still not certain how to define charity. I know it isn’t a dole, nor is it measured in time or grandiosity, and we don’t have to move to India, necessarily, to find it.

I think charity can be found in everyday situations. It comes when we feel another person's grief, when we withhold our rage, when we forget our ego.... It comes when we see the potential of another and sincerely want them to reach it even if it cuts into our own glory. Charity minimizes competition and fosters co-operation.

Charity loves the unlovable, forgives the unforgivable and is bigger than any offense or fear. It bridges differences without forcing change.

Charity is the love of Christ. A love so powerful it makes worlds, tames the seas, heals the sick, bridges death and changes hearts, perhaps the most difficult one of all.

It is the power by which Christ was able to suffer for our sins and the power God must have relied on when he allowed his perfect son to do so.

Charity is the infinite in what we are trying to become, and it will never become obsolete.

Like St. Francis of Assisi is thought to have said, “Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary, use words.”

And so I close the way I began: If hope leads to faith and faith can move mountains, what can charity “the greatest of these” do?
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J. blogs at cygnusopus.blogspot.com about her three precocious children, gluten-free living, life as a nomad and other random things.

 
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