Saturday, May 15, 2010

Charity Seeketh Not [Only] Her Own [People]: Those Who Hate You

Thus far this month, I have focused on charity not seeking her own in the sense of being willing to serve others rather than pursue her own desires. I discussed the ultimate example of this by examining the statement of Jesus that says, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends."

I want to shift gears slightly and discuss seeking not her own in light of a passage in the Sermon on the Mount - and discuss a paradox when considering that passage and two common statements quoted often in the LDS Church.

The first passage is Matthew 5:43-47, which says:

Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same? And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?

This passage talks about loving, blessing and praying for enemies - and those aspects are quoted and discussed often in the Church. However, the part that is not quoted or discussed nearly as much is the part that tells us to "do good to them that hate you".

There is an important distinction between the first category and the second command. Loving, blessing and praying for are things that can be done alone, away from those in question - those who are enemies, those who curse you, those who hate you and those who misuse and persecute you. Doing good to someone is different; it cannot be done alone. It must be done WITH those whom you would avoid naturally. In other words, you must interact with others to do good to them.

This flies in the face of two other common statements:

Be in the world, but not of the world.

Abstain from all appearance of evil.

The first quote (which, by the way, is not scriptural as quoted) generally is used as a justification to avoid sinners. My only point is that all of us are sinners, so this usage, in practical terms, is to avoid sinners who are different than we are. Obviously, this has particular application to those who curse, hate, despitefully use and persecute.

The second quote is perhaps one of the most misunderstood scriptures in the entire Bible. In its original usage, it does not mean to avoid anything that even looks like evil - that appears to be evil. Rather, it means something like the following:

Abstain from evil no matter its appearance - no matter how it looks.

I bring this up specifically because I have heard it used to justify all kinds of things that keep us from doing good to our enemies - and even to those who are nowhere near our enemies. The focus is not on avoiding anything that someone else might perceive to be bad, but rather to avoid that which truly is evil.

If I am a Home Teacher, and if one of the people I Home Teach is only "available" when he is in a bar, should I go into that bar to visit him? If a woman is walking home in the pouring rain and I have the ability to help her, should I refuse to do so simply because someone might see me and jump to an incorrect conclusion? If someone has misused me in some way, should I refuse to interact further with him? Can I really be in the world and not at least "appear" sometimes to be "of" the world - doing good to my enemies if I never interact physically with them?

In conclusion, I believe that if we are to internalize charity fully, at some point we must be willing to step out of our comfort zones and interact directly, in some way, with those who fight us, curse us, despitefully use us and persecute us. We can't become truly charitable in isolation, and we can't become truly charitable through only an intellectual understanding of it. At some point, we simply must LIVE it.


Chuck said...

Really nice, Ray. Thanks.

Clean Cut said...

I love this post--especially your thoughts on the second quote. Amen.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Ray.I'm glad i have been rebel enough to take both of those quotes with a pinch of salt,or I would never have married my beautiful husband of thirty years,in the temple.
However,my guess is that perhaps those of us who are at times weak in spirit need to keep ourselves safe.
I think these things are often about the time or season in one's life,and I'm also glad my need to be safe right now is also sanctioned.

Thankyou for providing me with some sanctuary.

Richard Alger said...


Mama D said...

I like your interpretation of this principle, even though I really enjoy my comfort zone. The last paragraph resonated with me, particularly:

"We must... interact directly... We can't become truly charitable in isolation, and we can't become truly charitable through only an intellectual understanding of it. At some point, we simply must LIVE it."

Thanks for the 'food for thought' on how I might more fully LIVE charity - and for the impetus to help me realize that already I often leave my comfort zone for charitable reasons.