Sunday, February 26, 2017
Charity versus Love
Sermon for Quinquagesima
St Valentine’s Day is behind us: the roses are beginning to fall apart; the chocolates have been eaten; and the “I wuv U” teddy bear lies forgotten behind the sofa where the dog has dragged it.
Love never ends? It hardly seems like it, does it?
The “love” that St Valentine’s Day brings us is highly superficial, and yet many people associate this sort of thing with love. For many people, love is just a feeling, a nice warm glow at the pit of the stomach. Is this the nice warm glow that St Valentine was feeling as he knelt there, battered and bruised before the sword fell on his neck?
This is the side of Love that people do not see. In fact many people are blind to what love really is, or even Who Love really is.
Christians know full well from St John that “God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” St Paul tells us that “now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three: but the greatest of these is charity.” Isn’t it interesting that in St Paul’s letter to the Corinthians we hear of Charity and not Love, yet in St John’s words we hear of God being Love and not Charity. There is only one Greek word used here for both Charity and Love – the same word being used by both St Paul and St John – and yet we have translated them differently.
Why is that?
The word Charity comes to us from a Latin word meaning dear, of great worth, precious. St Paul makes it quite clear that Charity is not an action, nor a way of speaking, because these things can be done without Love. However it is Charity that gives meaning to these acts of kindness. If we speak with Charity, then we speak with meaning, power, and giving value not just to what we say but also to the people who hear it. If we acquire knowledge and skill with Charity, then that knowledge and skill become vehicles for the presence of God in the world, strengthening and encouraging all who encounter with what we have. If we give up all that we have in the name of Charity, then we gain more than we could ever have possessed, and those for whom we give up our very lives will find Charity there declaring their value and worth.
This world is blind to its true worth in the eyes of God, that’s why it needs works of Charity to show it. Our Lord Jesus will open the eyes of anyone who is blind to His love and who dares to pray for that blindness to be healed. As we approach Lent, we approach it remembering that it is our very intention that will make our fasting, abstinence and penitence worthwhile. We fast, abstain, and repent through the Love for God. Unlike “Charity”, the word “Love” expresses the idea of desire, of longing. To say that God is Love, expresses the fact that God is the One we long for, the One we seek to return to, the One Who will make us truly joyful.
Yet, this goes the other way, for God loves us. We, too, aren’t just desirable, we are desired. God wants us for what we are, for who we are, yet knowing us more fully than we know ourselves.
As we complete our self-examination ready for Lent. Let us remember one thing. The love of God is bigger than any sin that we have committed. All we have to do is repent of all sin, and learn ever more closely what Love is and how to Love.
God is Love. God is Charity. What does this mean for your words and actions?