And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity. 1 Corinthians 13:13 (King James Version)
I like the way the KJV team translated this one — and I really like the original English intent of the word. Charity does not mean a give-away. Rather, it is activity based on intimacy, on love. The word really captures what the church must be about.
I like it, but it’s a real challenge for me.
I am a fixer. When I see a problem, I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to be empathetic. I want to repair it. Where I was reared, that’s what men did. We fixed things. A colleague once said that I come from the Ready. Fire. Aim School of Management. Do something. Now.
And in child rescue work, being a fixer can be real motivation. I can pop out of bed every morning with the full assurance that a good day’s work will save the life of another child. I can go to bed at night knowing that I have made the world better.
Pretty powerful stuff — but not very Biblical.
God really drove this home to me a few months ago. Despite incredible efforts to save it, we were going to lose a campus. No one could have worked harder, tried more avenues, done anything more to pull it out of the fire. But we were losing. And closing time was only minutes away.
We failed; the fixers couldn’t fix this one.
But then God stepped in. What all our efforts couldn’t achieve in months, His intervention did in minutes. (You can read that part of the story HERE.)
And that was the challenge: when the fixer realizes he is not able to make the repair, that it has never been his work, he has to find a new reason to get up in the morning. It wasn’t (isn’t!) my efforts that keeps those kids alive, that gives them the promise of a future. This is God’s purview; I just get to be along for the ride. So, again, why punch the clock, why put in the effort? After all, there are easier jobs, and God has this one under control.
I spent a lot of time mulling over that question. And then, I re-read 1 Corinthians 13:13.
Charity. Love. The real motivation. The Biblical motivation.
The easiest analogy that came to me during my time of searching was my relationship with my wife. There has not been a single morning in the last two-plus decades that I have gotten out of bed in the morning thinking “I’ve got to do everything I can this morning to save my marriage.” I’m not taking it for granted, but that really is not a concern. At the same time, every single day of our marriage, I have wanted to do something to make her life better, easier, more fulfilling.
Why … if our marriage is not at risk?
Because I am motivated by love. And that’s how you act when you love someone.
In the same way, I am not saving kids; that’s God’s job. But I am loving them — and I’m extremely blessed to get to be a part of their redemption.
And that is charity, in the truest Christian sense of the word.