Saturday, September 4, 2010

Charity Beareth All Things: "To Bear" Cannot Mean "To Endure"

My New Year's Resolution for this month is to "bear more things" - taken from I Corinthians 13:7 in Paul's description of charity.

At first, when I started considering the phrase "beareth all things" in relation to charity, I thought essentially of enduring all things - but it hit me that I need to look a little more deeply at what Paul might have been trying to say, since I Corinthians 13:7 later includes the phrase "endureth all things". If charity beareth all things AND endureth all things, "to bear" must mean something different than "to endure". Therefore, as is my wont, I turned to the dictionary in order to find a meaning for the verb "bear" that would fit the context of this verse and not mean simply "endure". What I discovered, I believe, is a great example of preconception or context directing my thoughts in an incorrect manner. Along these lines, before I discuss "beareth all things", I want to share something I learned long ago from a junior high school science teacher.

My 9th Grade science teacher asked the class one day to define "revolution". Given the setting, all of us answered with a standard definition that would be most obvious in that setting - that "revolution" meant "a complete turn". His response surprised us, since he said we were only partly correct. We racked our brains to try to think of another definition that a science teacher would want to hear in a science class - and he finally stopped us and pointed out that he had not qualified his question in any way. He emphasized that we had ignored other possible definitions for no other reason than that we assumed we knew the direction of his question - that we were limiting ourselves based on what we thought someone else believed or wanted to hear. Therefore, something like "an overthrow of an existing government or political system" hadn't crossed our minds as an appropriate answer - even though that definition would have been our first answer in a history class.

Back to the definitions of "to bear":

I went to the dictionary - and the following results surprised me. They should not have been surprising, since I am well aware of every definition I am about to share, but, in all honesty, I had blithely conceptualized "beareth all things" in such close proximity to "endureth all things" that I had robbed myself of some fascinating thoughts that struck me as I read the possible definitions. The implications have made me ponder what Paul might have meant - and even, perhaps, pushed me to consider legitimate possibilities that he might not have meant in his original writing. This has led me to consider the overall passage on charity as even more inspired and "divinely directed" than I had in the past - and I have held this passage in high esteem for a long, long time.

I believe the following all are possible meanings of "to bear" as it relates to charity:

to hold up; support; remain firm under: to bear the weight of the roof. (perhaps the most common interpretation and closely related to endure)

to bring forth (young); give birth to; to produce by natural growth: to bear a child; to bear fruit. (I had never thought of this in relation to charity, but it is something I want to ponder more intently.)

to be fit for or worthy of: It doesn't bear repeating.

to render; afford; give: to bear witness; to bear testimony.

to lead; guide; take: They bore him home.

to have and be entitled to: to bear title.

to exhibit; show; to possess, as a quality or characteristic; have in or on: to bear a resemblance; to bear traces; to bear an inscription.

to accept or have, as an obligation: to bear responsibility; to bear the cost.

to have and use; exercise: to bear authority; to bear sway.

I intend to address one or more of these possibilities each week in subsequent resolutions posts this month, but I would love any input you can provide first as you read these possible definitions. How do you think one or more of these might relate to charity bearing all things - and to me as I strive this month to bear more things?

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