In 1 Corinthians 13:1-13, St. Paul lists the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. We've discussed faith and hope, so now we'll focus on the greatest of these virtues, charity.
Paul, writing in Greek, expresses "charity" with the Greek agape (ah-GAH-pay). English translations render agape simply as "love." Our concepts of the words "love" and "charity" can prevent a full understanding of what God, through the Apostle, means to say. Charity and love can indicate giving to others from your physical possessions or talents out of a fraternal or familial sense of love. These are known as corporal works of mercy.
However, as a theological virtue, charity is the bedrock, self-sacrificial love that can inspire us to lay down our very lives for another. Jesus on the cross exemplifies and proves the theological virtue of charity.
The Love to Which All Other Types are Ordered
We can experience natural love without having charity. Romantic, brotherly and parental affections all spring from our natures and even some animals can experience these affections in some way. Yet, without the virtue of charity, these types of love can become disordered to serve our sinful passions.
With true God-given charity, though, we see and love others in the same way God does. Rather than pursue lust, personal gain from a friend's resources and abilities or control under the guise of protecting offspring, with charity, we pursue only that which is truly good for the other. With charity, all other loves become ordered and more consistent. We become willing to die so another may live, if need be. Jesus Christ displayed perfect charity on the cross, taking the punishment we deserve so we could come back to the Father.
How Does Charity Work?
Charity allows us to detach ourselves from all things created and attach ourselves to God. We see and react to others in a properly ordered way through our attachment to God. With His charity, we can love more like He does than we ever could with merely natural human affection.
While charity certainly inspires and demands acts of corporal mercy, it also inspires acts of spiritual mercy. We are obliged to feed the hungry, clothe the naked and visit the sick and the prisoner, all acts of corporal mercy. Spiritual acts of mercy include counseling the doubtful and instructing the ignorant. The gift of charity also requires that we become willing to speak hard truths when the fate of a soul depends on it.
Lack of charity can translate into tolerance for sin to not offend or shame another. It can be exactly the opposite of what a sinner actually needs. It does not judge souls, as that is hypocrisy. But it does warn that hell awaits if the sinner continues in mortal sin. Our charity sincerely desires that in heaven we will enjoy the company of all the other people God created.
We continue this topic of charity in our next article, "The Conclusion of the Theological Virtues - Why Charity is the Greatest Virtue."
Bethesda Healing Ministry is a compassionate and loving place to experience both corporal and spiritual charity. Our non-judgmental counseling offers a lifeline to those who have lost the way and need a helping hand. We're here to help facilitate post-abortion healing for the broken-hearted. Please contact us today to begin your journey to spiritual recovery.