A Test of Charity

Paul describes minding your own business as an act of charity. Maybe this will help us through the remainder of the political season.

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Y’all, it’s rough out there. I know I’ve blogged about this recently, but it bears repeating. Regardless of the outcome, this election season has already revealed the worst in ourselves to each other. I have never heard so much spite and vitriol; I have never used so much spite and vitriol. How do we live with each other after all this? I have totally lost respect for so many people– people who are good and kind and thoughtful, people who I love. I can’t just “unfriend” the world. Diversity of thought is essential. But yikes– some of those thoughts, it turns out, are pretty repellent. This is the danger of listening, I suppose.

I do think it’s important to listen, though, and I do think it’s important to live in community with people who are different from you. Paul, with whom I have a complicated relationship, advocates minding your own business, and calls this an act of charity. Never have I ever thought of charity in that way, though now that it has been brought to my attention, I can think of many people I know who do this. There is certainly a time to stand up for what you believe is right, butapparently there is also a time to hush and let people do what they’re going to do. It is unkind to tempt people to hate you, reasons Paul. Romans 14 (KJV with JST)* offers his good advice, and I liked it so much, I decided to go ahead and include most of it here. Paul speaks specifically of faith and religious observance, but I think it applies to any of the spheres in which we make decisions and act.

“Him that is weak in the faith receive ye, but not to doubtful disputations. For one believeth that he may eat all things: another, who is weak, eateth [vegetables].Let not him that eateth despise him that eateth not; and let not him which eateth not judge him that eateth: for God hath received him.Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.

“He that regardeth the day, regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day, to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. For none of us liveth to himself, and no man dieth to himself. . . .

“But why dost thou judge thy brother? or why dost thou set at nought thy brother? for we shall all stand before the judgement seat of Christ. . . . Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion ot fall in his brother’s way. I know, and am persuaded bu the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, thou walkest not charitably if thou eatest. Therefore destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died.”

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*For people who care about such things, the above reference is Romans 14:1-7,10,13-15. Like most Mormons, I use the King James Version. JST = Joseph Smith Translation. In this case, JST alters a little of verse 15, mostly for clarity it seems. I used “vegetables” in place of “herbs” because I thought it was clearer and made more sense, and a footnote told me it was an acceptable translation from the Greek.

3 thoughts on “A Test of Charity

  1. I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the importance of just keeping quiet sometimes. It seems to me that we could all do with spending a little more time praying for the wisdom to know when speaking up will help and when it will damage.

    1. And Shanna, now I’m wondering if academic work doesn’t train one to be the opposite of silent? In grad school, it seems like the expectation is if you have an idea, you share it, and if you’re not speaking, it’s because you have no ideas. Even a bad idea shared in class is better than no idea at all.

      I think that works well (not perfectly, maybe) in an environment where all participants are ostensibly trying to learn, but I think this approach becomes detrimental in other social environments. No one is looking to learn anything in a facebook newsfeed, right? That’s not what that environment is for, so people get angry and defensive (which, to be fair, happens in class, too) instead of persuaded (ideally).

      Just thinking out loud a little here. Applying academic behavioral expectations to a non-academic environment doesn’t seem to do much good, but I wonder if it would work the way? The academy could use a little more genial friendliness sometimes it seems, but if it were only a superficial veneer of politeness, would any learning happen? I’m so curious to hear what you think.

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