In a textbook on the craft of writing fiction, one assignment turned out to be a lesson in charity as well. The exercise asked the reader to picture a young woman dressed in gaudy clothes walking down a sidewalk in a quiet neighborhood one afternoon. Five people watch her pass by - an elderly man, a young man, a young woman, an elderly woman, and a child.
The reader was then asked to write a short paragraph describing the reactions of the onlookers. Because of the differences in their character, background, and age, each of the five would vary in his or her response.
Later, after the assignment was completed, the reader was told that the gaudy attire was actually the costume the young woman was wearing in a local play. She had inadvertently locked her purse in her car while at a nearby shopping center, and, unable to retrieve keys or money, she was now walking to the home of a friend.
What a difference the truth made! If the facts about the young woman had been known at the outset, the results of the writing assignment would have been quite different. It's clear that when we judge others by their appearances, we may do them a disservice. Our view of them may be colored by some personal prejudice or educated belief.
So often we hear people wishing aloud that they could love more. Well, they can. Charity, in the Biblical sense, is Christian love, and whenever we deal with others charitably, we are loving them. It's charitable, for instance, to keep from condemning others who hold views different from our own, even though their views may be opposed to our sense of things, and perhaps wrong.
Society keeps offering us solutions to the age-old problem of getting along with others. But wherever human relationships are involved, there are no formulas for fixing things up, no quick solutions. If there is any simple answer to harmonizing relationships, it's charity.
The thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians shows us how the Apostle Paul felt about this quality. ''Charity suffereth long,'' he said, ''and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil.'' n1
n1 I Corinthians 13:4, 5.
How can we learn to be more charitable? We can prayerfully study the Sermon on the Mount. There, Christ Jesus teaches us the Christly attitudes that enable us to feel and spontaneously express more charity. The possibilities are unlimited for obeying the Master's teachings, and thereby bringing healing to the world.
Perhaps the highest form of charity is to view others spiritually, as God truly made them. Then we are maintaining a healing concept of our fellowman. According to the Bible, God made man in His own image. So the true identity of each one of us, though not apparent to a material sense of things, is actually the reflection of God. The Bible also tells us that God is Love and Spirit. Therefore the man God created is a spiritual being, lovely and loving.
In Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,m Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science, writes: ''Jesus beheld in Science the perfect man, who appeared to him where sinning mortal man appears to mortals. In this perfect man the Saviour saw God's own likeness, and this correct view of man healed the sick. Thus Jesus taught that the kingdom of God is intact, universal, and that man is pure and holy.'' n2
n2 Science and Health, pp. 476-477.
If our days often seem filled with friction and frustration, it may be that we're not beholding others from a spiritual standpoint, following Jesus' example. We may be crowding our world with uncharitable labels for those we meet in our daily round. Holding the right view, however, does not mean that we ignore wrongs or overlook the faults of others. Rather it means we're striving to see beyond the mistaken, limited, mortal concept of man to the truth of his being. This higher view can only bless.
Because the source of true charity is God, divine Love itself, it is inexhaustible. In other words, there will always be more charity, more love, available to us than we will ever be called upon to express. DAILY BIBLE VERSE . . . Put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. Colossians 3:14