Biblical Charity // Charity vs Modern Love

1 Corinthians 13:1-13John 15:9

To find an official modern day definition of love, I went to the most reliable source of modern day meanings for words: Urban Dictionary*. With submissions from anyone in the world, Urban Dictionary compiles definitions of any word you can think of, including slang. While sometimes humorous, often crass, and occasionally spot-on, I couldn't resist checking to see what people had to say about the word "love."

The definition that has received the most "thumbs up" votes is this:

     1. love: nature's way of tricking people into reproducing

They don't improve much after, with the next highest definitions being these:

     2. love: the most spectacular, indescribable, deep euphoric feeling for someone

     3. love: lust is the desire for their body; love is the desire for their soul

According to the first three definitions, "love" means sex/urge, feeling, and desire. But while love is understandably very difficult to define, it's easy to see that these definitions are painfully incomplete, if not just wrong.

The first definition would have us believe that we sort of succumb to "love" because it feels good and it's instinctual, and sometimes babies happen. The second definition is purely feeling-based, which is quite disappointing considering emotions are fleeting. The third definition tries to distinguish lust and love but unfortunately fails by categorizing both as different kinds of desire, as if one is simply a good desire to have and the other one is bad. That's analogous to saying today I desire pizza because I'm hungry, but if I was experiencing better hunger I would desire a nice, balanced salad.

Kristina talked about theological virtue yesterday, with love – or charity – being one of them. We often use the word "charity" instead of just "love" because it is more succinct and direct in its definition. For example, I love my job in a different way than I love cheeseburgers, and I love God a whole lot more than either of those. Charity, on the other hand, implies action. Choice. Willpower. Decision. One of the problems with the popular definitions from Urban Dictionary is that they are void of the active decision-making necessary for true charity.

The Catechism tells us that charity is first the virtue by which we love God above all things for His own sake. It must begin with Him. It's also the virtue by which we love our neighbor as ourselves for the love of God. We choose to love God and therefore our neighbors – it's a matter of will, not emotion. Our emotions are still an integral part of us as humans, and we do feel love. However, the feeling of love, the emotion, the desire, is not what rules us. We can experience it, but our actions do not have to passively subject to it. Despite the presence or absence of love's emotions, we are still called to charity - not just giving to the poor, but truly willing the good of the other person and loving them as a creation of God.

Now, in society's defense, someone did put 1 Corinthians 13 on Urban Dictionary and it has been voted into the number 4 most popular definition. But just imagine if the majority understood that to be the real definition of love – how different would everything be? How would that change our worldview? How would that affect conflicts around the world? How would people react to us when they encountered our love?

In order to change the world, we must first change ourselves, our own hardened hearts. Take a look at 1 Corinthians 13:1-13 in a way you never have before. Instead of skimming over it because we have heard it so often, read through it slowly replacing the word "love" with "I." Let us place ourselves in the passage so it reads, "I am patient and kind; I am not jealous or boastful . . ." Let the Holy Spirit move. Spend time reflecting. How can we love better, be more charitable? How can we be better women of virtue?

*Disclaimer: We do not support Urban Dictionary or suggest that you visit the website. Please be aware that you could find offensive material.