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From The Chaplain's Desk
June 2015 Chaplain's Corner: And Forget Not Charity

By Charles Dimmick, CT State Grange Chaplain

  JUNE 6, 2015 --

In the King James Version of Paul’s letter to the Corinthians there appears the familiar phrase: “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Paul wrote in Greek, and the Greek word translated here as “charity” is agape, which is perhaps better translated as “love”. In fact, the word appears 106 times in the New Testament, and even the King James Version translates it 83 times as “love” and only 23 times as “charity”. In all modern translations we read “faith, hope, and love”, not “faith, hope, charity”. 

The Greeks had three different words for three different concepts of love. When they used agape they meant that unselfish love that a mother has for her child, which God has for his creation, and that humankind should have for God. So, when in our Grange ritual we use the word “charity” we should have in mind not just giving to the poor and needy, but giving our love to all those with whom we come in contact. And by love we should have in mind St. Paul’s further expansion of the concept of love: “Love is always patient and kind; 1ove is never jealous; love is not boastful or conceited, it is never rude and never seeks its own advantage, it does not take offence or store up grievances. Love does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but finds its joy in the truth. It is always ready to make allowances, to trust, to hope and to endure whatever comes.”

If we limit our interpretation of charity to good works and giving to the poor we totally miss the meaning of the word as St. Paul intended it to be understood. Paul meant unconditional love for others, as further clarified by his saying “and though I feed the poor with all my goods, and though I give my body, that it may be burned, and have not love (agape) it profiteth me nothing”.  

And then we have Jesus’ words to us at the Last Supper: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” Here again the word used in the Greek of John’s gospel is the verbal form of agape. So there is no escaping it; when we say in our Grange ritual “dispenses Charity” we should in our hearts be thinking “dispenses unconditional Love”.  Finally, we have this from the First Epistle of John: “How does God’s love abide in anyone who has the world’s goods and sees a brother or sister in need and yet refuses help? Little children, let us love, not in word or speech, but in truth and action.”  As the Assistant Steward says in the First Degree “Let our future conduct prove us.”


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