The scriptural verses may or may not be familiar with all: 1 Corinthians 13:4-7. In them we read of Paul’s teachings about the importance of charity. He begins by stating that even if he (we) have admirable and noteworthy traits, if charity towards others is not one of them, then the others are of little merit. He teaches us:
“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. Charity never faileth …”
Charity, then, is a pure love. There are no strings attached. There are no double standards. With charity comes empathy, forgiveness, tolerance, patience, seeking to understand vs. seeking to be understood. Charity requires effort. It is not passive, but rather, active.
We sometimes find humor in the advice given by the kind Fred Rogers of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood programs once common on PBS. In teaching children, he often said and sang, “Won’t you be my neighbor?” But to an adult audience he taught these profound words:
“I believe that appreciation is a holy thing. That when we look for what’s best in a person we happen to be with at that moment, we’re doing what God does all the time. So in loving and appreciating our neighbor, we’re participating in something sacred.”
This active participation is appreciating others, be it our literal neighbors, or neighbors in the more wide-society sense of the word, is sometimes scorned and seen as silliness. But our times are unique, precarious even. If ever there were a time for charity, it is now. If ever there were a time when kindness needs to be shown, it is now.
While others may “behave unseemly,” discipleship of Jesus Christ means actively participating not in mud-slinging, not in ridicule, but rather, in helping, lifting, and caring for others. Charity endureth all things? Yes. We take upon us our cross, as He took upon Him His cross. We learn of him by striving to become like him. It takes time. It takes practice. It takes resolve. But attaining and showing charity is possible.
What then are the fruits of striving to become more charitable? Inner peace. Solidarity with Him crucified. Kindness generally begets more kindness. Humility supplants arrogance. Caustic callousness gives way to heartfelt understanding. Seeing light in others, and in ourselves, dispels darkness.
Paul knew of which he spoke. We too can know: Charity is the pure love of Jesus Christ.
The Church of Jesus Christ of