Monday, May 11, 2009

Charity, an oft-forgotten virtue

Ever hear the song Signs, by Five Man Electric Band? Part of the song says "Signs signs, everywhere there's signs. Do this, don't do that, can't you read the signs". I think an attitude a lot of Christians have taken is to let everyone know about the signs, but fewer have taken the role to explain them and allow people to love the signs and not just obey them. I am talking about a lack fo charity. Charity is love. We must love one another. But we must also admonish the sinner, as it is one fo the spiritual works of mercy. How can we reconcile the two?

It is very easy to find a group of people condemning the actions of another, but let's look at Christ's example. When he met the woman at the well who was cheating on her husband and involved in adulterous relationships, he didn't say, you are a terrible person and proceed to call her names, and then leave. He first loved her. A true, genuine love. He cared for her well being and wanted the best for her. He wanted her to know God, to understand his love for her and for her to be close to her Creator. This is so important. Often in our society, it is easy to be condemned. I've had religious people tell me I'm doingo something wrong or bad, without ever trying to understand where I'm coming from or even reassuring me that I am a good person or anything, just pure condemnation.

Do we feel that we are superior to others? Do we condemn the actions of the others so we can feel liek we're doing the right thing, but they are failing thus making ourselves feel better? If so, we are completley missing the point. We are not on a high horse, helping out a poor, worthless person by pointing out their faults. We should rather visualize our situation as helping each other to mount the horse and riding away together. Mother Teresa didn't drive by in her fancy car and throw money out the window. She lived with the poorest of the poor and helped them by first understanding them. She is an example to all of us.

Remember, we must love the sinner, but hate the sin. It also reminds me of Simeon Stylites. He is known as a pillar saint. He built a huge pillar, dozens of feet in the air. He stayed there day and night praying and worshipping God. His austerities were exceedingly harsh. However, when people went to him for advice, he didn't tell them how bad they were and that they'd have to do what he is doing or more to ever be worthy. No, instead he was very lenient on them and loved them deeply first.

Let's admonish the sinner, but first, let's remember the words of Christ - Love God with everything you have, and then love your neighbor as yourself. Once we do this, then we can admonish the sinner. Done in this order, you can be sure they will thank you.

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