Saturday, August 14, 2010

Charity Rejoiceth Not in Iniquity but Rejoiceth in the Truth

When I wrote my initial New Year's Resolution post last week about charity not rejoicing in iniquity but rejoicing in the truth, I asked for input and insight from readers of this blog and one more where I participate regularly. I appreciate the responses I received, and I am going to copy or excerpt from each of them here and add my own commentary in [brackets] and italics - again, with thanks for what everyone taught me this week:

It includes "rejoicing" (even if only inwardly) when someone "gets his/her due."

[I thought immediately of an experience when I lived in the Deep South, when a murderer was executed by the state. People gathered at the prison, including many who had not been affected directly by the man's crime - to throw a celebratory party starting the moment he was killed. I believe that such a response constitutes a rejoicing that constitutes iniquity.]

Perhaps part of rejoicing in the truth means to celebrate the good that people do rather than seeking occasion against them.

[We have the ability to decide those things upon which we focus in relation to others - even when we can't avoid acknowledging the good AND the bad - the iniquity AND the truth, if you will. This insight brought to mind how I have heard people describe Brigham Young - some focusing on statements and practices with which they struggle or which they reject, while others acknowledge those things but focus on other statements, practices and actions that highlight his noble characteristics. I believe how we approach complex people like Pres. Young illustrates as much about ourselves as it does about him.]

We often need clear descriptions of what good behavior looks like in order to do differently-many of us would like to do better but do not know what that may look like in effect.

[This is an excellent point - that we need to understand what constitutes iniquity and what constitutes truth in order to rejoice in one and not the other. I think this will be the focus of my post next weekend.]

I think that to not rejoice in iniquity can also mean to not re-hash our past sins in a way that makes them sound glorious or fun. Sometimes people seem almost proud to be able to say "I did this" in order to show that they're "normal" and almost end up bragging about their iniquities . . . We could rejoice in the truth as it has been applied to our lives, rejoice in those things that bring light, not take away from it.

[I agree totally that there is an aspect of accepting the Atonement in this resolution - in the sense that not re-hashing our past sins and those of others (especially those who truly have repented) allows those sins to be forgiven and those individuals to be redeemed in our own eyes. It can be an incredibly liberating practice to let go of past mistakes once we have requested forgiveness sincerely - to not "rejoice" in our own iniquities and, thereby, "vaunt" ourselves above what truth would allow.]

Relationships need to be based on truth, and not lies. Too often we seek to preserve face, and aren't as honest with each other as we ought to be. Openness and honesty allows charity to flourish; walls and deceit do not. I think that even unpleasant truths can call for rejoicing, because acknowledgment and acceptance are the first steps to healing.

[I really like this idea, and I want to emphasize the last part - that part of healing is exposing our "sickness" (our iniquity, in the case of this post) and allowing it to be healed. I'm not saying we need to expose everything that would constitute iniquity to all whom we meet, but allowing others to see us as flawed, imperfect, conflicted, messed-up believers often can be a great help and healing for those who too often judge themselves against the facade they see on Sundays - the facades that hide our warts and make us look whole.]

I feel that "truth" is the "light" inside all of us. Therefore, "iniquity" is not following the "light" and "truth" is embracing the "light".

[I believe strongly that we should not rejoice in anything that feels dark or loathsome to us - but that we should rejoice in what brings us light and hope and peace and love. Perhaps that is as simple as it gets - but it is profound enough to be the foundation of another post this month.]

  • Charity doesn't grin when something bad befalls, but loves knowing that others and self are one.
  • Charity isn't a gloater, but instead empathizes in pure knowledge of the unity of mankind.
  • Charity doesn't dance at the doom of others, but dances in continual harmony.
  • Charity knows that all things will be made right in the end, so it doesn't delight in exacting justice today.
  • Charity loves not that evil befalls, but delights to know that all is as it should be eternally.

[There's not much I can add to that, except for my ringing endorsement of both the statements themselves and the effort to articulate various ways of phrasing the concept.]

Charity is strengthened by acts that reinforce what it is (love, light, truth), and weakened - or at least to some degree attacked - by opposing acts. To me is says "it is not enough to simply proclaim love, you must live it in the trenches where it is not always easy."

[That is a great way to close this post - by emphasizing that charity is not just a noun (a passive feeling in one's heart) but rather a verb (an active lifestyle - an internal viewpoint that drives one's very life, both what one feels and what one does as a result of those feelings). The goal should not be to "have charity" but rather to "be charitable" - or to "become charity personified". In a way, perhaps when real faith in who we are created to become moves and motivates to seek and live truth and eschew iniquity, what emerges is charity - seen in the lives of those who are moved and motivated. Perhaps charity is both a pathway - a "fresh view" - that illuminates the way ahead AND the destination itself - becoming a new creature that fills the measure of its creation by being filled with love.]

1 comment:

Michaela Stephens said...

"Charity knows that all things will be made right in the end, so it doesn't delight in exacting justice today."

I would think that if charity rejoices in the truth, then it would rejoice in justice too, no matter when it is exacted. But I think charity would be just as interested in whether the person paying their debt to justice was getting any benefit from that process or not.