Thursday, October 29, 2009
Recently we invited the missionaries to eat dinner at our house, and as is their custom, they shared a spiritual thought with us. This time, one of the Elders shared with us these verses from 1 Corinthians 13:
1 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.
2 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.
3 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.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 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.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 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.
12 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.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
I have thought a lot about these verses ever since, and thought about my own weakness in this area. I've especially thought about the verses that talk about how meaningless our actions are if they are done without charity. Usually when people think about the word "Charity" they think of giving money to "charities" or giving food and money to the poor. In fact, this scripture mentions giving to others, but it talks about how true charity is different from just giving to others. It says, "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." Think about that. If a person gave all their goods to the poor, just like charities do, but had not "charity", it profiteth them nothing. So clearly, charity is more than just giving to the poor.
If charity isn't just giving to the poor, and it isn't just being able to speak with the tongue of angels, and it isn't having the gift of prophecy, or great faith, what is charity? These verses written by the apostle Paul give us some ideas for how a person with charity acts, but don't really tell us what charity is.
One of the last prophets to write in the Book of Mormon gives us a great definition of the word charity. The prophet Moroni wrote, "But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him." Charity, then, is the pure love of Christ.
Moroni goes on to teach, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen." Moroni 7:47,48 This definition gives even more clarity to the verses in 1 Corinthians.
So the task for me now is to try more ardently to develop this love within myself. As I thought about this, the greatest of all spiritual gifts, I realized that it is usually my lack of charity that causes me to sin. It is when I have a lack of love for my neighbor that I gossip. It is when I have a lack of love that I criticize or get angry at others. When love is the motivating force, our view of others and the world changes. We begin to see others the way Christ sees them. It was that kind of love that enabled the Savior to suffer for the sins of all.
Verse 13 of the same chapter says, "And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity." Charity truly is the greatest gift we can pursue. The prophet Nephi wrote that it is "the most joyous to the soul." 1 Nephi 11:23. The prophet Brigham Young taught, "There is one virtue, attribute, or principle, which, if cherished and practiced by the Saints, would prove salvation to thousands upon thousands. I allude to charity, or love, from which proceed forgiveness, long suffering, kindness, and patience” (Brigham Young, Deseret News, 11 Jan. 1860, 353).
I hope that I can use charity as my new "lens" through which I view the world. I pray that I can develop this gift more fully, and truly begin to look at others the way the Savior did. I know that by changing myself, I may not change the world, but I will have, as explained by Moroni, become more like the Savior.