Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong. Let all your things be done with charity.
What things should be done with charity? All the things! How should we act? With courage!
These two guidelines are biconditional. Christian courage is charitable. Christian charity is strong and courageous.
An Obvious Error
One mistake with these two virtues is to do one or the other. ”The times demand courage!”says the boor and so they do, but he is rash, ugly, and unloving. Such a man harms those around him and does no good to his own cause. God deliver me from the spirit of boorishness.
“All we need is love,”says the weak person or one so battered by life that they feel unwilling to stand when standing seems hurtful, harmful, or hateful. The result is better on a person to person basis than boorishness, but the result is disastrous over time: vice is tolerated and greater evils ensue. Everyone ends up harmed for want of an early bit of strength.
A great many debates are between those asked to choose, none of us hearing Saint Paul’s wisdom.
A Trickier Error
Mostly, we get it: unloving courage isn’t courage, love without boundaries isn’t love. We then try to have courage and then add love or love with a dash of courage. This falls flat as one cannot balance vices to reach virtue. We are brash in the meeting and then back off with some kind words: the harm is done. We bend to vice in a friend, make excuses for our own sins, and then take a very strong stand on Twitter. We don’t help where it might do good, posture where it will not.
The error is pulling apart virtue as if there can be courage without charity.
The Better Way
Instead, we are charitable if and only if we are courageous. We are courageous if and only if we are charitable. This is a biconditional relationship. Courage is love applied to a difficult situation: often painful surgery to self or a friend. Charity is courage made human: justice with mercy.
There is never one virtue without all the virtues.
Just as there is no justice without charity, no prudence without courage, no moderation without justice, so there is no courage or charity without each other.
I have often failed this truth, even asking which virtue should be applied in what situation. This is sensible if by this we mean a facet of a unified whole. Thinking of courage when morally in peril is good, but forgetting that courage is faithful, hopeful, prudent, moderate, just, and most of all charitable is wrong. All is charity (love), but because we misunderstand love, what a friend calls “false charity,” we have different names for love in action: the classical and theological virtues.
In a broken world, I can know I lack charity if I have few enduring friendships. In a time given to decadence, I know I lack charity if nothing makes enemies to love.
Love and courage? Biconditional.