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Joe Cannon: The gospel in words: Charity as a form of love

Published: Thursday, Sept. 10 2009 12:17 a.m. MDT

\"And though I have all faith, and have not charity, I am nothing.\" (1 Corinthians 13:2)\"Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men.\" (Doctrine & Covenants 121:45)


Last week we talked generally about how the word \"love\" in its various Greek forms is used in the scriptures. Overwhelmingly, when we see the word \"love\" in scriptures it refers very specifically to the Greek word \"agape.\" When we use the word \"charity,\" for example, we are referring to this type of love.People often make two large mistakes when discussing the word \"charity.\" First, some think of charity in the sense of alms giving. That is the important work we do when helping to meet the needs of the poor. This is an aspect of charity, but if that is what we focus on, we miss the much larger and deeper meaning of charity, or love.Another problem in thinking about the words \"charity\" and \"love\" is a tendency to think that it requires affection. While having some affection for another person makes it easier to be charitable toward them, focusing on affection again tends to cause us to miss the mark of what charity/love means. For example, we are required to love (agape) our enemies and to pray for them. Does this require us to have affection for them?Recently I came across a volume of radio addresses given by C.S. Lewis in 1942 on \"Christian Behavior.\" What follows is an extensive quote from his discussion on charity.\"Charity means 'Love, in the Christian sense.' But love in the Christian sense, does not mean an emotion. It is a state not of the feelings but of the will; that state of the will which we have naturally about ourselves, and must learn to have about other people. Our love for ourselves does not mean that we like ourselves. It means that we wish for our own good. In the same way Christian Love (or Charity) for our neighbors is quite a different thing from liking or affection. It is a duty to encourage our affections — to 'like' people as much as we can, not because this liking is itself the virtue of charity, but because it is a help to it. But though natural likings should normally be encouraged, it would be quite wrong to think that the way to become charitable is to sit trying to manufacture affectionate feelings. Some people are 'cold' by temperament; that may be a misfortune for them but it is no more a sin than having bad digestion is a sin; and it does not cut them off from the chance, or excuse them from the duty, of learning charity.\"Next week: How to develop the virtue of charity.

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