Agapé, the Greek word
which means benevolence, selfless love, humble love, Christian love, love
with action. The English language is not rich enough to express the feeling
behind the words.
It is something that Christians need to
work at and perfect. This charity becomes a way of life, a state of mind,
something that becomes second nature, that is with us all the time, at
work and at play.
It comes as a result of turning away from
willing sin, of repenting of evil deeds and thoughts, of giving ourselves
over to things above and not things of the earth.
Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to
you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your
hearts, ye double minded.
If we look at the following scripture in the King James Version,
Now as touching things offered unto idols, we know that we
all have knowledge. Knowledge puffeth up, but charity edifieth. And if
any man think that he knoweth any thing, he knoweth nothing yet as he ought
to know. But if any man love God, the same is known of him.
(1 Corinthians 8:1-3)
we will see that in verse one the word charity is mentioned
and in verse three the word love. They both originate from the same Greek
root but have different nuances of meaning.
In verse three, the word love is used and means you either
have it or you don't have it. It is a love of God that you have as a result
of being born again (and God knows that you have this love for Him).
Charity is the opposite of being proud and in this passage,
as well as in Chapter thirteen, is contrasted to knowledge.
For example, if I go to church to worship God, and show
my love of Him to Him (and He will know it) in praise and worship songs
etc., but at the end of the meeting pass by a poor and dirty beggar-like
person sitting in the back row, I have shown love but not charity.
Let's read the following famous passage again with new eyes:
Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and
have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.
And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries,
and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove
mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing. And though I bestow all
my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned,
and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing. ¶ 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: but whether
there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues,
they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. But when that which is perfect
is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. When I was a child,
I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but
when I became a man, I put away childish things. For now we see through
a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall
I know even as also I am known. And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these
three; but the greatest of these is charity.
(1 Corinthians 13:1-13)
The first verse of the next chapter states that we must follow
after charity; it is something that we must strive for, whereas
spiritual gifts are given to us by God.
Here we come back to the basic experience of Christianity,
one that Satan has hidden from many professing Christians; Christianity
is a way of life, a whole new mind set, a new heart, that is given
to us by God at the time of our New Birth, when we willed to turn from
sin, to repent.
Charity, however is man-driven, we must will to have
charity, to put others first and ourselves second, and we shall do this
because we want to, not because we have to. As we do so we are walking
along that narrow path that will lead to redemption on that day.
When the Son of man shall come in his
glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne
of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall
separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep
from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats
on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come,
ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the
foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was
thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked,
and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and
ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when
saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee
drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked,
and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came
unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto
you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these
my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
This is charity.
According to the Chambers English Dictionary, charity
is defined as follows:
The disposition to think favourably of others, and
do them good; almsgiving; a non-profit-making foundation, institution,
or cause, devoted to caring for those in need of help, etc.; universal
30 April 1998
We have seen from the scripture in 1 Corinthians 13 that if we do everything
according to the wishes of the Godhead and do not have charity we are as
sounding brass. This means that I can become the greatest evangelist of
all time, promote the Kingdom of God and show others the way into heaven,
yet if I don't have charity I won't go there myself.
God is in effect the archetype of charity and His word, the Bible is
such a wonderful living book. To use a colloquial illustration, it shows
us the growing forest in detail as well as each living tree, depending
on how close we wish to approach it.
God the Father, the LORD of hosts has, in these pages, given
us many illustrations of His charity and love as examples to follow so
that we may obtain a better understanding of what He desires of us. Above
all, He desires our acknowledgement of Him as God, the creator of all things
including ourselves and, our obedience to His wishes because we love Him.
The examples of His charity to mankind are too numerous to mention
as reading the Bible will continually open up new patterns to each of us.
His lovingkindness, longsuffering, holiness and righteousness
are all outpourings of His love and charity to us. Perhaps we should bear
this in mind when we read the Bible and realise that by His Almighty Power
were the worlds created and everything therein and that He has seen fit
to instruct, by example, those who wish to be with Him one day.
The scripture previously mentioned therefore is in effect a commandment
to have charity; if we don't have it we'll not make it.
However, charity is not something that we can acquire in our
own strength and that which is acceptable with God can only come if we
are reborn spiritually and then practice it with the help of the Comforter,
the Holy Spirit who lives inside us.
When we are born again through the New Covenant of the blood of the
Lord Jesus Christ, God gives us the spiritual power to perform these deeds.
We have the potential to do them:
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house
of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their
mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and
they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour,
and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me,
from the least to the greatest.
If we practice charitable works as a means of and for the purpose
of getting into heaven, we are doing those works for nothing, even though
being born again. Put another way, if we are doing them as an unpleasant
or distasteful duty, we are doing them for the wrong reason. We should
do them because our Master, who we willingly follow, would like us to do
them and, just as Christianity is a progression, a walk of distance time
and patience, so is charity.
The Bible, in Philippians 2, states that God shall give us the
will to do His good pleasure. It also states in 1 Thessalonians 5 that
we must not quench the Holy Spirit.
The Chambers English Dictionary describes quench as follows:
to put out; to put out the flame, light, or sight of, or the
desire for; to cool with liquid; to slake; to damp down; to put and end
This means that if the Holy Spirit, who is God, prompts us to
do a certain charity and we are too busy with worldly things to hear or
obey, we will quench the power that is in us.
It is so difficult to explain this holy power and the comfort that it
brings, to those that are not born again. It is easier to show the results
of the power than the power itself.
A parallel in the Old Covenant is that God made certain commandments
for the Children of Israel to follow, to show that they loved Him and feared
His righteousness. They however, followed the commandments as a ritual,
thinking that this would be enough to satisfy Him. They were not prepared
to set their will, or make it their purpose to love the LORD their God.
Let's look at it this way:
If your earthly father asked you to help him do a job that required
three hands, such as positioning a bolt in the engine compartment of his
motor car while he lay under the car holding a component in position, would
you do it with a sigh because it interrupted something else very pleasant
that you were doing at the time, or would you do it gladly, even though
it would cause your hands to become black with grease.
Here's another that few will ever notice has been done:
If, when using toilet paper from the roll in the WC, do you tear it
off when the perforation is against the roll because it is easier for you,
or do you leave a short piece hanging to make the next user's search for
the end easier.
You see it is not doing the charity only, but the reason behind
This is part of being a doer; and you don't do it because it is
a commandment, you do it because it is a way of life, a changed life.
It all goes back to the great Commandment - Love the Lord your
God with all your heart and soul and your neighbour as yourself.
The greatest example of charity that has ever been must
surely be the loving obedience of Jesus Christ to His heavenly Father (and
ours), starting, that we know of, from the creation of the world; to the
time of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob; to the time of being "Mine Angel"; to
the time of being Jesus of Nazareth; to the time of dying for mankind as
the sacrifice for our sins; to the time of being in the lower parts of
the earth preaching the word; to the present time of being our Covenant
Representative; to the time in the future when He shall come as our Warrior
King; and to the time when He shall be our Heavenly Bridegroom.
All so that God shall get His rightful Glory!
We each need to pursue charity for a few miserable years,
can we do it?