(NOTE: I read this FaceBook post from my friend, Jim McWhinnie and felt he was right on target. With his permission, I re-post it here for you.)
WHATEVER BECAME OF CHRISTIAN "CHARITY"
Psalm 34: 17,18
"When people cry for help, the Lord hears them and sets them free from all their troubles. The Lord is close to those whose courage is broken and he saves those whose spirit is crushed." - Psalm 34:17,18
An American news reporter gathering a story about the work of the Sisters of Charity in Calcutta asked one of the sisters where he might find Mother Teresa. The nun smiled for a moment, considering this Westerner's question, then answered, "You will find her with the poor." The reporter, trying to get to a more helpful, definitive response, then asked, "Well, where might I find the poor?" The nun answered, again with a bit of a smile, "Why, they are everywhere. All about you. Can't you see them." Now frustrated, the reporter pressed on, "Yes, yes, I know she works with the poor. But WHERE is Mother Teresa working with the poor?" The nun - possibly with a bit of delight -, then answered, "Wherever the poor might be found this morning!" She paused for a moment then offered her hand to the reporter, "Come, let us both go looking for some poor people."
Charity is the word used in the King James Version of the Bible for Love, specifically the Love that originates in the heart of God. Through the years, charity became more and more a word to describe the act of giving to those in need. How many times have we heard the proud boast of a self-sufficient soul who declares, "I DON"T need charity and I am NOT asking for charity!" I suppose to avoid confusion, present day Bible translators have abandoned that word, Charity, and replaced it with the more generic word, Love. I can see their reasoning, yet I do believe that it may have diminished our understanding of the Divine Love that is humanly expressed - Charity.
Today, we tend to think of Love as a feeling or attitude within us, a matter of the heart. Maybe we might go further and say that Love is also something of the Voice, something needing to be communicated. And Heart and Voice truly are aspects of Divine Love, humanly expressed. But the Biblical understanding is that the Divine Love, humanly expressed, is also a matter of the Hands, something not only conceived and communicated, but something also conveyed. Charity is the conveyance of Divine Love from one soul to another soul. Charity is Divine Love not only known by the giver of the Charity but also by the recipient of the Charity.
An ancient Benedictine teaching on Christian Love is cherished in the phrase, "We are to bring the love of Christ and place it in the lives of others." It is evangelism by means of Divine Love, Humanly Expressed. It is an evangelism through the tangible conveyance of Divine Love through Christ-like action. It is not evangelism by way of intimidation or coercion, rather it is evangelism by showing others the love of Christ that has come upon you and has transformed you. Oh, mind you, Benedictine evangelism is not shy about speaking of what Christ's love is all about, but the explanation of the Love always follows the conveyance of the Love, the Divine Love, Humanly Expressed. It is the way in which the grace of God does its work in our own lives. in the lives of others and even in the life of the community.
"Come, let us both go looking for some poor people," the insightful Sister told the reporter. I believe she might have been teaching that reporter that if you want to know about Mother Teresa, then you might best go about "doing" what Mother Teresa is doing. And in the "doing" comes about the deeper realms of the "knowing". To know Christ in deeper, fuller ways, then maybe we best be looking for people in need.
The Psalmist wrote, "When people cry for help, the Lord hears them and sets them free from all their troubles. The Lord is close to those whose courage is broken and he saves those whose spirit is crushed." May we always remember that the Love of God is always searching for those in need.
Brother Anthony of the Cross
Jim was my brother's roommate in college. One of my first acquaintances with Jim was as a high school senior. I visited Asbury College and he and another guy promptly talked me into joining them for a Clint Eastwood Marathon at a drive-in theater in Lexington. I remember dozing to the wavering whistle sound from one of Eastwood's spaghetti westerns. I attended Asbury the next year as a freshman.
Jim recently retired as a United Methodist Pastor and is now an Oblate Novice with the Greyfriars - Yes, a Benedictine monk (somebody you want in your corner when you talk about things like charity). You can read his poetry at: http://willow-words-poetry.posterous.com. He is also on Facebook at: Jim McWhinnie.