In Fear of Doing People Wrong,
We do God Wrong Instead.
We all know we should operate with Charity, but do we know what Charity is? And do we know why we should operate with it? This is not a 25 words or less article, but it’s of paramount importance. Read it when you are alert. I would apologize for its length, but I’m not the one that made it long. I thought I could easily slap it down in text and be done, but as sometimes happens, the Spirit wanted more.
In my youth I never thought much at all about the word “Charity.” I know I heard it called “the pure love of Christ,” but to me that seemed pretty vague. When I read Paul’s words in I Corinthians 13, I just thought it contained an awful lot of phrases with “not” in them. “Charity is not this, and not that, and not that either.” I just never put much stock in the word until the late 80’s.
It was then I sat listening to an ex-Restoration Seventy talk about “Charity.” I was listening closely, not because he was a Seventy, but because of what he said and what happened in my heart while he was saying it. The Holy Spirit strongly confirmed what he said. It changed what I thought about “Charity” and convicted me of lacking it. As years passed, the word became more and more important in my life. Charity and the lack of Charity; those two attributes are important to understand, but sometimes it’s tricky to know which is which.
Charity is the very essence of Christianity. Its presence and absence started at the beginning of creation and goes to the end. Way back at the beginning, satan wanted to control mankind and for a very good reason; to redeem every soul for God. Of course, along with wanting that, he also wanted God’s own honor. Jesus said, “Father, thy will be done and the glory be thine forever.” Jesus did not try to control, nor did He want the honor. That’s Charity. It was there in the beginning and is also found today. Satan lacked Charity. He was cast down away from God, but when God became the son of man, he unsuccessfully tried to get God’s honor again, didn’t he. Today, satan still wants control, but now he looks for man’s honor instead. Lack of Charity in us is the same. Even though we think we have a very good reason, the motive is still the same – control of and honor from fellow man.
Knowing that is convincing, but we need to know more to really operate with Charity and to avoid operating without it. I Corinthians 13, even with all its “not's” is a guide - like our own personal Liahona. It’s the signs and symptoms of charity and the lack of it. Inner motive of seeking control and honor is sometimes hard to discern, but we notice the fruit of that motive. Paul’s words talk about that fruit. They are check points to assess our own spiritual condition and to avoid being snookered by subterfuge or trapped by charlatans.
So -- what did that Seventy say? He was using Paul’s famous words, and he had a slogan that came out of his understanding of them. From that I realized that I, and most everyone, misunderstand the message of I Corinthians 13, and in that, mistake the definition of “Charity.” We get it backwards.
He defined “Charity” this way; “We should never be concerned with what people think of us. We should only be concerned with what God thinks of us.” We people, who say we are God’s, all need to take a close look at those verses with the “nots” in them, if for no other reason than to be sure that Seventy knew what he was talking about. The scripture verses follow in red with explanatory notes in black. Look for the slogan underlined above and for the motive - control of and honor from fellow man. Remember - this is not to be used to glorify or condemn. It’s only a wake-up call to repentance for the cause of Zion.
The Check Points of I Corinthians 13 – Charity
First of all - verses that stress the supreme importance of Charity.
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.
13:2 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.
13:8 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.
13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is Charity.
So if Charity is that important, it is a crucial ingredient for establishing Zion. And the lack of Charity is very possibly, even probably, responsible for our failure in the past.
Charity is not Charitable Donations or Sacrifice
13:3 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.
Good Qualities of Charity
13:4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind
13:6 Rejoiceth in the truth
13:7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
Of course, these three verses above talk about “things” of God or “things” needed by God. We please God when we practice them. These verses do not mean us to put up with abuse or to believe lies from other people. Yes, Christ did put up with being crucified by people, but that was different. It was really a “thing” of God, part of the plan from the beginning.
The “not” phrases – ask "why?"
13:4 Charity envieth not ; Charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up - Why does someone envy? Why does someone boast? Why does egotism happen? When we observe this behavior in our self or others, isn’t there concern about what people think of us, and effort to control that thinking to our favor?
13:5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil -
Why do some behave indecently or inappropriately with tantrums, sulks or seduction? Why do some seek cliques, gossip groups and other agreeing people? Why are some people easily exasperated, sometimes blowing at the drop of a hat? Why do some dwell in thoughts of evil, either plotting it or fearing it? In these situations, isn’t there a worry about what other people are thinking, and this concern causes a type of mental combat, trying to control the worry? There are many versions of the behaviors above but they all seem to fit the Seventy’s slogan and the motive.
13:6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth – Why would someone (that would even read Paul’s words as caution) “rejoice in iniquity?” It’s because iniquity is always in disguise. The way of the world is iniquity, not truth. Almost all mainstream living is focused on controlling what others think and reaping honor as a result. There are multitudes of ordinary people (not criminals) using lies all the time, causing harm to people and profiting from it. To justify it, and to avoid detection, good is called “bad” and bad is called “good.” On the other hand, people who honor the truth no-matter- what, are thrilled by that truth even if it convicts them of error. The realized error leads the way to repentance, so it’s a joyful discovery on the path to truth. Those people don’t seek control or the honor of man but instead revel in the awesome creative intelligence and the redeeming grace of our Lord.
Charity – Line upon Line Progression
13:9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
13:10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
13:11 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.
13:12 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.
13:13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is Charity.
The verses above stumped me for a long while. I used to think it was about the coming of Christ. Their meaning was a mystery to me. Finally understanding arrived. Dummy-me! These verses are in the words about "Charity." They are not talking about the coming of Christ, but rather about us “coming unto Christ.”
These verses are God’s explanation of how lack of Charity happens. We come by it honestly. It starts in early childhood (“spake as a child, understood as a child, thought as a child”), as soon as tiny children begin to comprehend and learn to obey. To children, Mom and Dad are like God. This is necessary at first. They are dependent on their parents for a long while. They need to be protected and nurtured. Out of necessity, Children are taught to please “their people.” They are trained to be concerned with what “their people” think, and later this transfers from just “their people” to all people. If reared well, at around the age of eight, children begin to grasp the idea of pleasing God, but that doesn’t mean they can quit pleasing “-their people”. It’s not until the age of independence (“becoming a man”)that they are totally free to choose who they will serve, and with good parenting they will know pleasing people is not the required focus.
So beginning at the age of accountability, we start out doing everything “in part,” including serving God. First it’s a thought and gradually that thought turns into action. Operating with Charity requires enough spiritual maturity to no longer need kudos from people. Charity is Christ’s pure love. It is not partial. It is “perfect.” When we operate with Charity, the past partial attempts of our youth don’t work anymore. They “are done away.” Godly parents will train children up to be God fearing and not man fearing, but still all children have to mature and “put away the childish things.” Then, if we are willing, we can gradually move into the realm of Charity, actually a scary realm at first where we switch our dependency from man to God. Most know little about it. Most never do it. You’ve got to admit, with the more obvious feedback, it seems easier to stick with pleasing man. But some do choose to make the switch. A power results from this. It moves a person away from ‘knowing in part” (faith) to fully knowing (knowledge). We no longer “see through a glass darkly, but instead we see face to face”. A powerful integrity results. What we “know” shows in our behavior and becomes our reputation (“then shall I know even as also I am known”). When that behavior is witnessed and watched, it has profound effect, even more than faith or hope. Now, to me, “Be ye perfect,” which once seemed an impossible goal, makes a lot more sense.
Charity : Perception to Paradigm
So Charity keeps focus on how God sees us. Lack of Charity focuses on how people see us. These are perceptions that influence our opinions, and our choices. They don’t have to be permanent states that guarantee us glory or condemn us to hell. If we’ve blown it, we can change it. We can control it, and if there is one thing we do need to control, it’s this perception. If we control our perceptions consistently, they become paradigm; the deep belief that motivates everything we are and do.
Here follows a few concrete examples and explanations to help us notice the action of perception, how it can be controlled, and how it relates to that Seventy’s Charity slogan.
A speaker or performer - We have all had to stand before a group or a crowd to speak or perform. We might perceive we are nervous. But are we nervous about what people will think of us, or are we focused about presenting the message well and hyped from that?
A lady cleaning house with visitors coming – She will perceive the need to clean. But is she cleaning because she doesn’t want visitors to think she’s a slob, or is she cleaning to make visitors more comfortable and welcomed?
Word Choice – How many times, when startled by the appearance of someone near, have we said, “Oh! You scared me.” How many times do we say, “He hurt me,” or “She offended me,” when really we assumed the thought of others and just chose to be scared, hurt, or offended. No attack – our choice of words amiss. Doing this influences our perception and also the perception of anyone who hears us. It can be very dangerous. It requires caution.
Mirror-Mirror – Our appearance and grooming (cleanliness, dress, makeup, hair) needs to be neat and comely because it can affect our ability to influence and serve. Sloppiness discredits us, and we definitely want to “avoid the appearance of evil.” But do we groom to control what people think about us, or is it a true reflection of who we are in God’s eyes? Ostentatious or seductive grooming is only for attracting attention, and when that happens, Charity goes down the tube.
Hidden Agenda vs. Transparency - With hidden agenda, it’s all about control. The perception that we need to keep things quiet and maintain some pretense requires manipulation to affect what people think. Sometimes it is assumed that people shouldn’t know the real situation or the whole truth, because they can’t handle it. To me, that smacks of “supreme directional control,” which might also be called supreme lack of Charity. Transparency might have to be a statement that something is confidential, but otherwise most people, even children, can handle the truth, and actually feel more secure knowing it.
“The Pure Love Of Christ” Mistake - There is a general Christian perception of “pure love” that confuses unconditional love with being lenient or indulgent. The “pure love of Christ” accepts and respects others in any condition, but it does not condone being lenient or letting wayward people think we go along with them. It is easy to fall into that trap in fear of offending or possibly losing friends. Christ’s pure love is not lenient. During His life, He wasn’t into pleasing people. He was solely into pleasing His Father, God. His “pure love” was actually pretty tough. Look at how he ticked off the Pharisees. Look at the money changers. Look at what His love did to Saul of Tarsus. Look at how he answered when the rich young man asked what more he should do to inherit eternal life. Look at what He said when one of His disciples wanted to first go and bury his father before following his Lord. I bet you can add to that. Christ’s pure love gives His people, what we need, not necessarily what we want. Sometimes we need discipline and hard words.
The End Justifies the Means Mistake – Achieving a certain goal can seem so critical, that we’ll do or say almost anything to achieve it. It’s a huge control effort. That perception is way off base, but it is often perceived as the fastest, most convenient way to get to the desired goal. God’s chosen people have been collectively operating this way for a long time. Have the goals we’ve been commanded to carry out been accomplished yet? The end does not justify the means. The means determine the end. That’s what Jesus taught. Christ’s way to the goal is not easy, and it may seem slow, but actually, operating with Charity is much faster than without it, and it is true to the mark. How we operate determines our salvation.
Charity and The Call to Come Out of Babylon – The Tough One
I have read and heard people ask, “Where do we need to repent?” If the previous reading hasn’t answered that question, or if you want more meat, consider this.
We all live in Babylon. We understand its ways. We know “how to do” Babylon, but we are commanded to come out it. Today’s Babylon, does not encourage Charity. It actually pushes the lack of Charity. Now this is going to bother many of you readers. It bothered me, believe me. But even while it bothered me, deep inside, I knew the truth, and I knew I had to change.
This is about competition. Competition is basically war. Even “good clean competition” (and that’s an oxymoron) is an organized lack of Charity applauded by everyone. Today, it is found everywhere. I used to think competition noble, but it’s not. It teaches us to compare ourselves to others, to be on top of others, and to care about what others think of us. It also tempts many to dishonestly control the outcome. In doing these things, it also encourages us to break the second greatest commandment.
I competed with great success in more than one realm, and even though my self esteem didn’t climb a pedestal, I still acquired a view of the world where I was comparing me and mine to others all the time. I fell into this common trap when working with lazy youth who were satisfied with a paltry “good enough.” I thought, excellence would not be achieved without comparison to the “experts.” So – we competed and eventually we achieved excellence, and also acclaim. We also got a really good taste of the corruption in competition and realized the criteria for measuring performance is also corrupt and usually flawed. With time to reflect on it all, we realized our error and understood that yes, God’s people should operate with excellence in all things - not to conquer but to support fellow man; lifting their spirits, giving relief from daily struggle, giving ministry, inspiring others to excellence, or just changing a frown into a smile. The Boston Globe Trotters might be an example.
Competition is not just present in sports. It’s in all systems – from education, to entertainment, to business, to parenting, to politics, to daily habits, to every skill imaginable, and also in our possessions - our belongings, our homes, even our animals. The comparing of one person to another and then requiring all to perform under the same conditions so that comparison is easy (such as in our school system) eliminates the ones who operate outside the box. God made everyone different, and Christ Himself operated outside the box.
In competing, we think we need to win. We think we need to be better than the other guy or gal, or those we are watching need to be better than the other group. What we really need is to just get away from competition. The alternative is cooperation; work, games and activities that use and teach teamwork not to conquer other people but to achieve a group goal. Does that sound like Zion? I notice that my grandchildren never fight when they help me, working hard together in the garden to get a job done. That’s a lesson for all God’s children. Without the focus of time, money, and energy on competition, there’s lots left over for the Kingdom of God. Don’t despair that the fun and games will be gone. Do a search for “cooperative games” and see what you find. E.g. - “Cooperative Musical Chairs” for kids is a hoot. No one is “out” and big lessons are learned. Just be sure to have at least a few sturdy chairs.
“Charity never Faileth” I Corinthians 13:8 – If you consider all of the above in this section to be hogwash, think about this. If there is no competition – Charity can’t fail, because no one fails. No one wins either. No comparison – no judging - or at least, the judge is no longer man.
When we operate with Charity, the only judge is God. We don’t need to worry about what men think of us. We’ve been doing that long enough. We haven’t done too well in the past, but now we really need to get into being concerned with only pleasing God.
"They Already Know"
I was standing outside my son’s room, eavesdropping on his telephone conversation. Yes, I know – I should have turned away and gone back later, but his end of the conversation was riveting. He was working hard, trying to convince some church friend of the need for repentance. I don’t know who he was talking to or anything more about the conversation. I only know that the Spirit hit me like a ton of bricks and said, “They already know.” I kept listening and realized that the other end of the conversation held lots of denial and avoidance. I tried to use sign language to let my son know his attempt to convince was futile. If someone already knows, convincing is not needed – just getting it in gear and doing it is what’s needed.
I myself can identify with this “already known” situation. I have given up a lot of things to follow my Lord. Trashing TV in the 70’s started a whole habit of "letting go of the next thing." So you’d think with that being so long ago, that I must have life pretty much under control. Well, let me tell you, it never ends.
Months ago I finally let go of one of the “already known” things. Trashing the TV turned me into a big reader of course. At first my reading was despicable – Harlequins held my fancy for years. Yes, in and around the fiction, I did read scripture. I read the Book of Mormon of course, and the New Testament Gospel stories were my favorites. I read the Pentateuch and the Major Prophets and I read the D&C. But when I wanted to cozy up with a book, it wasn’t scripture, and I would spend hours being cozy. Gradually I moved to non-fiction, and I was thrilled with all the useful information I was finding. I started to pursue certain avenues of study as a result. But still I had what I termed “noble” fiction for relaxing. Noble fiction had to meet certain criteria in my mind, and I had a few authors that met those criteria.
Well, last spring a notion lingering in the back of my mind exploded. That notion said I was still wasting too much time in a fake world. I had put that notion in a mental box and closed the lid. But then I started to get little nudges calling me to remember the notion in the box. Someone would say something, or ask something. It would trigger my mind and make me want to justify my habit. I did this for quite a while – a couple years at least. Then one day, while in meditation, a thought entered my mind, making me need to remember a story out of the Gospels. And…..I couldn’t. The Gospel stories have always been my favorite scriptures, remember? I had to go look the story up. Wow! That was it. I realized how the Gospel stories were being replaced with.....riff-raff. And I had already known the need to repent. I was convicted. Out went the riff-raff.
So that happened to me less than a year ago. What is it that you already know and are not doing? What in your life can you give up and change for the cause of Zion. Everyone is different, but there's always something. It is not just putting our differences on a shelf. It’s bringing down the things we’ve stuck on the shelf to avoid them. OK, I said I put mine in a box – same thing. Sin of omission - avoiding, delaying, denying our known need to repent is just as sinful as committing some grievous act.
This confession may sound like I’ve lived a Spartan life devoid of pleasure and satisfaction. Not so. The “letting go” repentant life-style is so exciting and fulfilling. It’s full of discovery. And once we begin to let go, God notices. He will not stay dormant. I fully believe the obstructions in our midst are not just the work of the adversary. God will not honor a people who insist on keeping on with habits they already know should be banished. If you already know – let it go. Begin now. Just beginning will be noticed by the Almighty. It can make a difference for the cause of Zion.