In observing the Christian world in which I live and move and have my being it occurs to me that we too often fall into one of two different traps: we are charitable without truth or we are truthful without charity.
By “charity” I mean the desire and inclination to be loving, kind and good to others. This inclination most likely springs from various sources. It has to do with our personality type: we are simply wired with our heart as the main motivator. We are relational people. We feel for others and communicate through our emotions. Added to that is our family background, education and pressure from our peers. The desire and inclination to be charitable is also influenced by our self perception: we like to think of ourselves as kind, loving, generous and charitable people. We are people with heart. We care for others. We are compassionate, and this—it must be admitted—makes us feel good about ourselves and if we’re not careful self righteous. We are, after all, not only good, kind and loving, but we are clearly more good, kind and loving than others.
The inclination to be charitable is a trap when it operates without it’s counterbalance of truth. So, for example, it may seem charitable to turn a blind eye to the adulterous relationship of a divorced and re-married church member. It might seem charitable to overlook the fact that our young people are co-habiting. It seems good, kind and loving to give active homosexuals the nod, overlook the materialism and greed that destroys lives, turn a blind eye to violent and abusive behavior, be “pastoral” about abortion, same sex unions or any number of moral issues. We wish to be kind, loving and good. We wish to be accepting, welcoming and non judgmental, and all of that seems wonderful.
However, this kind of charity ends up not being charitable at all. It is mere sentimentality and weakness. It wallows in a sweet kind of relativism which, in the long run, does a huge amount of damage. It is a diet of sweet candy which rots the teeth and destroys the health of the church and the human family.
The opposite trap is to have truth without charity. The truthful Christian also takes his position as a result of his personality type. He is a head person first and heart second. The value of truth has been engrained into him by his family, his friends, his education and his environment. He prides himself on truth as the sentimentalist prides himself on charity. His mission is to proclaim that truth to those in darkness. He is an evangelist, apologist and a defender of the faith. As his charitable brother takes pride in his heartfelt compassion, the truthful brother or sister takes pride in his knowledge and defense of the truth. He also is in danger of becoming self righteous in his position. If he is not careful he begins to see himself as a defender of the faith, a lone Athanasius against the heretics. He and his friends hold and uphold the truth and have the task of correcting all others.
As charity without truth destroys the spiritual life, so truth without charity is destructive. Continue Reading