UPDATE: I created an animated Powerpoint presentation of this topic and put it on another post to help others visualize the explanation below a bit better. You can find that post right here. Also, you can download the Powerpoint slideshow.
Word “clouds” are fascinating. They are an interesting way of seeing how words and ideas relate to each other. They also show how people currently perceive the meaning of a word and anything related to it. I once looked up some word clouds on FAITH to try to get a sense of how people understood the term FAITH, and curiosity nudged me to look at how people understood CHARITY. Sometimes, the bigger the text represents the more popular perception or understanding, though, that’s not always the case. Here are some of the word clouds I picked off Google Images for CHARITY:
Take another look at each, and what do you see? Each of the words, if not most of them, have something to do with the idea of helping and giving to the poor and needy. The definition and understanding of Charity is burdened with volunteerism in behalf of social welfare and caring for the poor. Somehow, that’s usually the first thing people think of whenever the word “charity” comes up.
The true definition of Charity has been blurred out of our perspective….and replaced with another that mimics the true definition, one that has “a form of godliness, but denies the power thereof” (2 Timothy 3:5).
A Simple Phrase…And 3 Ways to Understand It
The English translation of Charity in the Bible comes from the Greek word “agape“, which we often translate back into English as “unconditional love” or “God’s love“. Another prophet in the scriptures describes charity as “the pure love of Christ“. Charity is really a virtue…not an organization or a behavior. It’s a characteristic that we possess…and then our behavior matches that characteristic. So, set aside for a moment the word clouds and all definitions for a moment, and let’s start with this:
CHARITY = THE PURE LOVE OF CHRIST.
Ideally, this should bring us back to “agape“…God’s love, which is also unconditional love, perfect love. Next, we put ourselves into the picture:
I have Charity = I have the Pure Love of Christ.
Once you can understand this idea, then the statement “I have the Pure Love of Christ” gives us at least three perspectives.
#1: Charity is…Christ’s Love to Me
I have the Pure Love of Christ = I Have Received the Pure Love of Christ
I have Christ’s Pure Love coming to Me. I’m a receiver of His Pure, Clean, Unconditional Love. I have felt it, I know it, I can recognize it. I’m the receiver of His Gift…and there’s a reason for that: He wants me to know what His love feels like. This is the first part of when Christ said, “as I have loved you, that ye also love one another,” (John 13:34). We must know how He loves us to begin with before we can properly love others.
#2: Charity is…My Love for Christ
I have the Pure LOVE OF CHRIST = I Have a Pure Love FOR CHRIST
I love Christ…purely. My Love for Christ is Pure; No “Love for Another” takes precedence over my “Love for Him”. Once we’ve developed a relationship with Christ, we learn to love Him back. While timid at first, our confidence increases the more we realize that we can actually love Him.
#3:Charity is…My Loving Others as Christ Loves Them
I have the Pure Love of Christ = I Possess the Same Pure Love that Christ Has
I try to become like Him…until I have become like Him. I don’t focus on myself. Rather, I strive to focus on others. I try to love others the same way He does. This is the second part of “as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.” This is usually where we struggle:
- We put up with a lot of pain, disappointments, heartaches, failures of others and ourselves.
- We are kind.
- We don’t envy what others have.
- We don’t make ourselves appear more (beautiful, smart, privileged, advantageous, etc.) than someone else.
- We don’t seek to gratify ourselves in whatever manner.
- We don’t get mad easily.
- We don’t think of doing anything bad.
- We don’t enjoy evil, anything like it, or seeing another’s misfortune.
- We’d much rather have what is true, do what is true, be true.
- We’ll carry burdens, endure a lot, look forward to good things, be optimistic, and be more believing and trusting of others.
“And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, 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.” (link)
That’s not a short list…nor an easy one.
The Cycle of Charity
As I seek to love Christ, He continually shows His love for me, to me. He shows his love for others by teaching me how to love them His way: the very same way He loves me.
As I work to love others like Him, and doing it His way, other people won’t be able to tell the difference between my love for them and His love for them. In other words, I have become ONE in Him, and He is IN ME. Striving to be ONE WITH HIM allows me to become an instrument of His love…even a Window to His love. That’s what it means to be a Christian: not only a believer of Christ…but one who strives to emulate him in character…while, at the same time, trying to shed all of our worldliness.
Society would have us believe that Charity is almsgiving, giving to the poor, volunteerism, social welfare. That is not what God meant. God loves us…and He wants us to be like Him, in heart, thought, and deed, until our thoughts and our ways become like His thoughts and His ways.
- Charity is the Pure Love of Christ.
- When I have Charity, I have the Pure Love of Christ.
- Charity is:
- Christ’s love for me.
- My love for Christ.
- My love for others is just like Christ’s love for them.
Having Charity is not an easy task, but it is the way to becoming more like Him…even if it’s just a little bit more each day.