Among the many charges brought against Christadelphians, perhaps that of lack of Charity is most common. “You make out so many people to be wrong,” it is said, “people as good as you, and ten times better; why can’t you have charity?” And they wrest Paul’s beautiful words in 1 Cor. 13 in the endeavour to show that we ought not to say people are wrong, however far from “The Truth” they may be. Yet, at the same time, they have but little “charity” for Christadelphians, sometimes even calling them “infidels”. Now “charity” is not toleration of error and wickedness, neither is it mere alms-giving; nor is it incompatible with a very stern attitude towards presumptuous apostasy, Christ himself being the witness. Let us be quite clear upon the matter, with the help of the word of God.
“CHARITY” is “LOVE” – The word translated charity in 1 Cor. 13 (AV) is agape, which the Revised Version and others more correctly render love. It occurs about 250 times in the New Testament, and is nearly always translated love even in the AV, being rendered charity only 28 times (nine times in 1 Cor. 13). When John says, “God is love” (1 Jno 4:8), he means much more than charity, and does not exclude anger, for “God is angry with the wicked,” for whom “there is no peace”. And Christ was sometimes angry. He could not and would not tolerate hypocrisy. “He looked round about on them with anger, being grieved for the hardness of their hearts” (Mark 3:5). So also Paul, who writes this panegyric on charity or love in 1 Cor. 13, would not tolerate “Elymas the sorcerer … seeking to turn the deputy from the faith,” but in the name of the Lord smote him blind for a season (Acts 13:8-12). Paul would not have “the faith” perverted at any cost. “There be some that trouble you,” said he, “and would pervert the gospel of Christ. But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that we have preached unto you, let him be accursed … If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received let him be accursed … If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received let him be accursed. For do I now persuade men, or God?” (Gal. 1:7-10). This, though severe, was not uncharitable, because the “perverters” were the enemies of God, and their way led only to destruction.
Of course, as regards mere alms-giving, “charity” is but scantily manifested in it; and Paul expressly says so in this chapter: “Though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and have NOT charity, it profiteth me nothing” (verse 3). This alone shows that the “love” he was speaking about was something far greater than mere alms-giving. He had been speaking of “spiritual gifts” and of the diverse places and positions of the members of the body of Christ — some honourable, others less so, and of the mutual love and “care for one another” (12:25), that should obtain among such. Prophecy, knowledge, and faith, were excellent; but what were all these without LOVE? The great thing was the love of God and of one’s neighbour, as Christ had said (Mat. 22:39). “the end of the commandment is charity (love) out of a pure heart, and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned. (1 Tim. 1:5).
CANNOT BEAR EVIL.—True charity or love is incompatible with the knowing toleration of error and wickedness. In this same chapter, Paul says, “Charity … rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in THE TRUTH” (Verse 6). And Christ commends the ecclesia at Ephesus, saying, “I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: and hast borne, and hast patience, and for my name’s sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted” (Rev. 2:2,3). Their love was “without dissimulation” (Rom. 12:9). They “abhorred evil, and clave to the good,” and though not perfect, were so far pleasing to Christ. Some, like the Cretans were otherwise. “Wherefore,” said Paul to Titus, “rebuke them sharply that they may be sound in the faith” (Tit. 1:13). “If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness, he is proud, knowing nothing … from such withdraw thyself” (1 Tim. 6:3-5). “We command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us (2 Thess. 3:6). “if there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine (the true ‘doctrine of Christ’), receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed. For he that biddeth him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds” (2 Jno. 10-11). “Mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned, and avoid them” (Rom. 16:17). These passage illustrate the apostolic attitude towards error and errorists. No one would say that the apostles were lacking in true charity or love; yet they did not hesitate to say when people were wrong, and would by no means recognize as fellow-Christians those whose faith and practice were at variance with the gospel that Christ preached.
Yet in spite of these illustrations there are many who say that Christadelphians are uncharitable in disturbing the peace of congregations and family circles. But Christadelphians love peace as much as their neighbours. So did Christ and the Apostles, and yet they had no peace in their lives. “The wisdom that is from above is FIRST pure, THEN peaceable” (Jas. 3:17). Christ said even to “his brethren:” “The world cannot hate you; but me it hateth, because I testify of it that the works thereof are evil” (Jno. 7:7). “I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And A man’s foes shall they be of his own household” (Mat. 10:34-36). Those who were against Christ were for a false “charity”; but he and his disciples would not submit—hence the enmity. And where the fault was we can see. If Christ had listened to Peter’s “charitable” advice— “this (crucifixion) shall not be unto thee” (Mat. 16:22) – where should we all have been?
Christendom is astray from the way of life, and it is true charity or love to tell people so, and to point them to the truth, especially when you are hated for your pains. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend; but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful” (Prov. 27:6). “Let the righteous smite me, it shall be a kindness; and let him reprove me, it shall be an excellent oil, which shall not break mine head” (Psa. 141:5). Now Christ is that “Friend” and “Righteous One,” and he tells us of a system that God hates, and that he (Christ) is coming to destroy. That system is Roman Christendom, headed up in Rome, which he styles, “BABYLON THE GREAT, THE MOTHER OF HARLOTS AND ABOMINATIONS OF THE EARTH” (Rev.17:5)”.
By this system Christ says all nations are deceived—“by thy sorceries were ALL NATIONS DECEIVED” (Rev. 18:23). Christ shows no false “charity” to this system: “all who dwell upon the earth shall worship him (the Beast) whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). According to some of our friends who upbraid us with lack of “charity,” there is not such a system upon earth. They are so “charitable” they would not say such things of anyone, from the Pope to Mahomet, or Buddha! But Christ is true. There has “come a falling away first” (before the Day of Christ—2 Thes. 2:3), and “that man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition … that Wicked … whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness with his coming” (verse 8). Protestantism in all its sects is simply the harlot-daughter of Rome, and in these latter-days is rapidly going back to her mother. Because men “received not the love of The Truth that they might be saved … God sent them strong delusion that they should believe a lie” (2 Thes. 2:10-11). And they do believe a lie, and it is real “charity” to challenge attention to the fact, if perchance any may be disposed to examine themselves in the light of the word of God, and to “receive the love of the truth that they might be saved.”
The Christadelphian Shield
date and author unknown