a life of charity

Bible translation is not simply replacing a hebrew, aramaic, or greek word for an equivalent in the receiver language.

Take for example the greek New Testament word, "agape". In modern English translations it is translated to the word "love." In Jacobian England, the translators of the King James Bible chose "charity." I think we Americans might need to go back to the KJV word. As many evangelicals know, ancient Greek has at least 4 words  that could be translated into "love". Agape is the word given special emphasis by the New Testament writers. But when we Americans think "love" we water it down. But when we hear "charity" we are forced to think about personal expense, compassion for one in need, generosity, withheld judgment, as well as love. Charity can also remind us of being lied to, of turning the other cheek when slapped, of blessing those who are our enemies, and of taking risks that sometimes turn out poorly. The thing about charity is we more quickly disassociate it from a single feeling, whereas we generally associate love with good feelings.

I am not so optimistic as to think using the word "charity" will make the church more charitable. Plenty of white American christians, including clergy, have perpetuated horrific atrocities and slaughters - for example of native Americans, even though they used King James' Bible. They just used the part about Joshua's invasion to justify their slaughter of Pequot women and children in Mystic, Connecticut and Sand Creek, Colorado among many other places. For the cause of slavery, the devout general Stonewall Jackson ordered the defeat and death of thousands of fellow Americans. For the cause of peace, white pastors urged Martin Luther King Jr. to cease his protests in Birmingham because the christian whites were not yet ready to recognize the equality of black Americans.


When I plead for my fellow followers of Jesus to love their LGBTQ neighbors, some seem to think that means telling them they are sinful and dooming themselves to hell. But how does that change if I plead for my fellow followers of Jesus to be more charitable to their LGBTQ neighbors? Can they suffer long with them? Can they not look down on them? Can they seek the benefit of them? Can they think no evil of them? Can they rejoice in the truth of their identity with them? Can they bear all things with them? Can they hope with them? Can they endure with them? Can we mature?


Can we follow this wise man's idea?
“It is the Holy Spirit’s job to convict, God’s job to judge, and my job to love.”  Billy Graham

Can we hear our black neighbors who want us to recognize that black lives matter without callously replying "all lives matter"? Can we hear the parents of children murdered by men with assault weapons when they ask for those guns to be banned without demanding unrestricted 2nd amendment rights?

Charity hurts. That's how we know we are doing it right. Who is ready to follow Jesus in the way of agape?



1 Corinthians 13 (KJV) 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.

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