Posted by: Laura Berry | July 11, 2010

Being Charitable Means Not Always Saying ‘I Love What You’re Doing’

Does being charitable mean never saying anything unpleasant to anybody? Many people think so. I don’t. Many times in the Gospel, Jesus Christ tells people what they need to hear, even if it makes His hearers feel extremely uncomfortable.

This post is from Salvo Blog and is the property of its authors.

Salvo Magazine

Some recent covers of Salvo Magazine

by Julie Grisolano

Over the course of the past few months, the Signs of the Times blog has featured numerous comments from readers and writers debating the point as to how far is too far in calling out the bad philosophies, the atrocious lies, and unruly behavior of our fellow citizens.   While some readers love the fake ads in the magazine that poke fun at some of the ridiculous ideas permeating our culture, others have found that they cross the line into the realm of being “uncharitable.”  Does the idea of  “Christian/brotherly love” mean never having to say someone else is wrong?  Since someone here passed me the conch, I’m going to weigh in.

Charity or Christian love, or whatever you choose to call it, doesn’t mean that one has to turn a blind eye to what I will refer to here as immoral behavior.  There’s a saying that goes something like, “Love the sinner, not the sin.”  This phrase gets twisted and misused quite a lot.   A few years ago I remember a friend telling me that she attended a rally in Chicago defending traditional marriage, and opposing protesters shouted at her screaming, “but the Bible says, ‘Judge Not Lest You be Judged.'”

Yep, the Bible says that.  In fact, Christ said it.  But as any good English major knows, you’ve got to read the whole paragraph and contextualize the phrase in order to understand the full meaning of what the author intended.  And the lines following say, “You’re sins are forgiven.  Go out and sin no more.”

When non-Christians, or Christians, bandy about Christian doctrine to defend their immoral behavior, they usually revert to the line above and also the concept of Christian love.  This usually means that people want to take Christ’s words, and use them as a blank check to get away with bad behavior, because, well, God loves them no matter what, so therefore anything goes.

People reading this blog come from various faith traditions.  Some come from no traditions at all, so I can’t speak for everyone, but my understanding of mere Christianity is that yes, Christ loves everyone, and yes, we all sin and we all fall short, but He continues to love us anyway—even though we don’t really deserve it and we sometimes choose not to love Him back.  But like most parents, He doesn’t always like what we do, nor does He think that our choices are the best ones, or, since I’ve been speaking about morality here, He doesn’t think our choices are the “right” ones.  How do I know this?  Well, we have a book that Christians base their faith off, and although there are numerous interpretations, it’s pretty clear about certain things.  Like in the phrase mentioned in the paragraph above.  Christ admonishes people from judging the sinner, but then He turns to the sinner, tells her He forgives the fact that she sinned, but likewise, admonishes HER by telling her not to do it again.   It’s sort of like a  parent who steps in when the siblings are arguing, breaks it up, tells the victimized sibling that all will be ok, but boy kid, don’t purposefully go out and do stuff like that anymore.

Although some of Salvo‘s critics like to call us a Christian rag, we don’t proselytize.  (It would be fairly difficult to do since our writers come from a myriad of Christian traditions.)  But we do believe that there is an ultimate truth—an absolute Truth.  And this truth can be found.

So if we believe that, and believe that there is a right and wrong, then it’s really a duty to call out the wrong and point people to the right.  If we didn’t, then we’d be cowards.

There’s a great line in Emma, a Jane Austen book, that I think applies to situations like this.  The main character, Emma, has denigrated an old lady friend who is a silly, poor, spinster—to their entire party of picnic revelers.  Emma did wrong and her best friend and neighbor, Mr. Knightley, pulls her aside and chastises her:

This is not pleasant to you, Emma–and it is very far from pleasant to me; but I must, I will,–I will tell you truths while I can; satisfied with proving myself your friend by very faithful counsel…

Real friendship…real love, means you point people to the truth—you don’t let them wander around in the darkness.  And sometimes you do it with a little humor too.


But it is difficult to tell people what they need to hear without being prideful. How do we maintain a balance between fraternal correction and being judgmental?


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