What Manner of Man
(A weekly program for knowing and following Jesus Christ)
By Richard M. Eyre
WEEK 22: CHARITY
How remarkable and how worthy of thought is Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, where he lists nearly every great virtue and puts charity at the top of the list. He says that charity “never faileth.” He says that one who has “all knowledge and faith” still has nothing without charity. He says that charity is greater than faith or hope (see 1 Corinthians 13:2, 8, 13).
In His word and revelation, Christ himself holds forth charity as an absolute requirement for his work. He tells us to be “clothed” with it and he says we can do nothing without it.
How could nay word, any concept, be that complete, that total, that preeminently important, that absolute? Scripture gives us the answer when it says that charity is “the pure love of Christ.” That definition explains all fulfills all.
“The pure love of Christ”—is there here a double meaning?
1. To love as Christ loved: purely, completely.
2. To love Christ—purely, completely.
Is it a double meaning, or do both meanings say the same thing? Only by loving Christ purely can we love as purely as Christ does. Only by loving as purely as Christ does can we purely love Christ.
Another possible meaning emerges: Wasn’t his pure love the love of his Father? Thus could not charity, the “pure love of Christ” mean also “the pure love of the Father?” Again a double meaning becomes single as we remember the concept Christ taught: “If you love me, you love him that sent me.”
Let us examine how Christ loved, so that we can strive:
—To love as purely as he;
—To love him purely;
—To love his Father (our Father) purely.
Indeed, Christ’s love was perfect, and indeed it never failed—not even when those in his own hometown called him crazy, deceitful, devilish; not even when fellow townspeople tried to throw him off the cliff (see Luke 4:28-29); not even when he was spat upon while Barabbas was released; not even when one of his own betrayed him with a kiss; not even upon the cross.
Christ’s love was pure because it was totally selfless (“I lay down my life for the sheep;” John 10:15). Christ’s love was pure because it was universal (he loved the rich and the poor, the strong and the weak). Christ’s love was pure because it was intelligent (he gave that which would help, withheld that which would hurt). Christ’s love was pure because it was individual (he taught and lived and died for each man as well as for all men).
Now go back to the previous paragraph and change every “was” to “is,” because Christ’s pure love “never faileth,” and he loves us each today as much as any were ever loved.
The key to understanding Christ’s love is to realize his intimate concern for us as his younger brothers and sisters. Perhaps you or I would give our life for our own little sister. She is small and defenseless, and perhaps if her life were threatened, we could be willing to give ours instead. Christ sees each of us in that way. Indeed, as we suggested earlier, if you were earth’s only sinner, if no one but you needed the atonement, Christ would still have died on the cross to pay for your sins.