The Power of Charity
17th November 2022
“Cant’ buy me love…”
(Paul McCartney 1964)
HOM: Listening with understanding and empathy.
In the English language the meaning of the word charity is often reduced to a noun which describes organisations that serve those in need and the action of fundraising and giving money to those organisations. Yet charity in Christian thought means more than that. It is the highest form of love, an unselfish love made visible in unselfish love of others through action.
St Paul’s classical description of charity or agapeic love is found in the New Testament (1 Corinthians.13)
‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.8 Love never fails…’
In contrast, the ‘one size fits all’ English word ‘love’ can mean a wide spectrum of feelings from ‘I love ice cream’ to ‘I love my daughter’. There is a qualitative difference in what is meant by the word ‘love’ in each case. It may also be misleading to reduce love to an only feelings, which as we know can be rather changeable and most of us would want to claim that true love has a more constant, unchangeable nature about it.
The Greeks in their wisdom used different words to denote the different types of love we experience and in the Bible four words are used; eros, romantic love; philia, friendship love; storge, family love and the greatest of all, agape. Agape is a perfect unconditional love, reflecting something of the divine which has no charge and is freely given. It is the sort of love we can only aspire to, but which is to be extended to all people and goes beyond mere feelings. It can’t be bought but may not be without personal cost. This is the true meaning and power of what we refer to as charity.
Nevertheless giving materially is a way to demonstrate true charity. And as we move into Advent and the Christmas season we start to think of giving, not only to our family and friends, but to those most in need. At Wychwood there will be opportunities for charitable giving through having a simple meal with unspent money going towards Mary’s Meals, which seeks to provide nutritious school meals in some of the world’s poorest communities. We will also be collecting at our annual Carol Service in support of charities which are held particularly close to the hearts of our Wychwood community.
It’s true that love can’t be bought but it can propel us to generous giving which is love made visible.