The Meaning of Christian Charity

I saw a sign recently that read: “Put Christ back into Christmas.” That slogan is usually associated with a time several years ago when many individuals and businesses were spelling “Christmas as Xmas”. That practice has diminished but the erosion of real charity toward others continues, and our lack of respect and good will toward some of our neighbors is widespread. During Christmas many people spend lavishly on presents for their families, friends and associates, leaving only a pittance for meaningful charity. Emily Dickinson explains in one of her famous poems that success can be appreciated only by those who really need it. I quote from that poem here, but I’ve substituted the word “charity” for “success.”

“Charity is counted sweetest
By those who ne’er succeed.
To comprehend a nectar
Requires sorest need….”

Christ taught unconditional love that extends, not only to our families and friends, but to those who hate and despise us. One way to get back on a charitable track is to emulate the teaching of Christ: love your neighbor as yourself and do good to those who persecute you in his name. That message is as important and valid today as it was centuries ago, and it’s potential for goodness and benefits to mankind are beyond imagination. Taking care of one’s family and treating looking after one’s friends and associates is good. Furthermore, contributions and good works to help the needy are noble and commendable, and charitable organizations perform a great service to society. But these alone will not compensate for a lack of true charity toward others, simply because they are different than we are or because we don’t agree with them.

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