Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Demonstrating Charity

Inside the Cathedral of St. Giles, Edinburgh, Scotland
        " And now abideth faith, hope and charity these three; but the greatest of these is charity."
                                                      I Corinthians 13:13
        "Charity is a virtue which, when our affections are perfectly ordered, unites us to God, for by it
          we love Him."            St. Augustine

     Charity is one of those words we do not hear much  today except in reference to foundations or groups that provide monetary relief for certain disadvantaged people.  However, this word implies so much more in the Christian life than the mere giving of money to help the poor.  As the verse of scripture quoted above implies, charity is the greatest of all the virtues a believer can display.
     In Webster's "American Dictionary of the English Language" 1828 edition, he defines charity in this manner:  "that disposition of heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men, and to do them good.  In a theological sense, it includes supreme love to God and universal good will to men" (Webster pg. 35).  Webster had a grasp on what it means to demonstrate charity in a life.  In the flesh, we do not look favorably upon God or man.  We would rather run someone over than to help them up.  Our hearts are inclined towards evil always until that day that God draws us to Himself.  When we come to Christ, we have a new heart that seeks to please God, and for the first time, we really see people in a different light.  As Webster said, we have "that disposition of the heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men and to do them good."  This comes from God not from our own sin sick soul apart from Him.  So a question has come to my mind lately.  If we are a new creation in Christ, why is it that we, as believers, are often the ones to throw stones at others in the household of faith?
The Cathedral at York, England
     This morning I was listening to a podcast by Dr. R. C. Sproul.  His topic was predestination, and he planned over the course of the next few days to explain this doctrine.  One of the key things he stated is that all churches actually believe some form of this doctrine.  Further, he cautioned his listeners not to open fire on other believers who do not hold to the view of Martin Luther and John Calvin on this topic.  He said we can have discussions and disagreements on issues, but it should not lead to contention that does not demonstrate charity.  I loved his wise advice.  
     In his letter to Titus, the Apostle Paul gives him similar advice when dealing with false teachers in the midst of the congregation:  "But avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless.  As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned" (Titus 3:9-10).  I enjoy reading Paul because he pulls no punches.  It is one thing to address heresy in the body of Christ and quite another to attack a brother/sister who don't happen to share our exact viewpoint on doctrine.  What if, in the end of our earthly journey, we find out that we were wrong on certain issues after all?  We have missed relationship with other believers in pursuit of proving we are right and at the same time, brought no glory to our heavenly Father.
Inside the Cathedral of York
     Life is short.  I think we are all aware of that.  God gives us so many years to walk on this earth reflecting the light of Jesus Christ in our lives.  If we spend our time finger pointing, name calling, or diminishing others to build up our own set of beliefs, we have lost the battle and allowed the enemy of our soul to have the victory.
     Charity grows out of the agape love that God demonstrated for us by sending His Son to die for our sins that we might have the righteousness of Christ imputed to us.  Our Lord sends us forth to demonstrate that same agape love to our fellow man through our words and deeds.  Let us be people of charity putting aside our "I'm right, you're wrong" attitude and donning instead the humble clothing of a servant.  This is the way that Jesus taught us to live.  In the words of my wonderful mother, "You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar."  If we demonstrate charity, we will win more listening ears than if we attack and condemn the ideas of others.  May God grant us the wisdom to know when to speak and when to remain silent.  And in all things...may God grant us a heart of charity towards one another.  Selah!

5 comments:

Gospel One To One said...

Brilliant!

I am one who likes to get into heated discussions about topics. It is something that we should guard against when we start to get opinionated.

God Bless you Barbara

Moray

Pam said...

"If we demonstrate charity, we will win more listening ears than if we attack and condemn the ideas of others. May God grant us the wisdom to know when to speak and when to remain silent."
These are words I need to pass along to a close friend who is struggling with a relationship at work.
Thanks, Barbara!

Pam said...

"If we demonstrate charity, we will win more listening ears than if we attack and condemn the ideas of others. May God grant us the wisdom to know when to speak and when to remain silent."
These are words I need to pass along to a close friend who is struggling with a relationship at work.
Thanks, Barbara!

Barbara Thayer said...

Thank you for your kind word Moray. The Lord gets all the glory. I preach to myself first and then share the message with other to encourage them. There have been many times when I have spoken first and engaged my mind later. Not a good idea! Blessings to you my friend!

Barbara Thayer said...

Pam...I am so happy that this will help you with a friend. We all need as many encouragements and helps along the way don't we? I am so grateful that God is patient with us as we learn how to reflect Christ to others. Blessings to you!