According to Thayer, the Greek word for charity is agape. Agape love is a brotherly love, an affection, or good will, and also includes the idea of benevolence towards others. The word charity is used seven times in I Corinthians chapter 13. Its constant use is indicative that God really wants us to understand and apply the idea of charity in our lives.
If there is one thing that many people are lacking today, it is love for their fellow man and in particular for fellow servants of Christ. Why is it that so many people find it hard to love those around them, and to treat them with brotherly kindness? In order to be the Christians God wants us to be; we must embrace charity and make it a driving factor in our daily lives, not just a side thought.
Charity is Longsuffering
To be longsuffering is "to be patient in bearing the offenses and injuries of others." According to Thayer's, it is also to be mild and slow in avenging, as well as slow to anger and slow to punish. Yet, there is another side to longsuffering that Thayer mentions. To be longsuffering is to "preserve patiently and bravely in enduring misfortunes and troubles."
So, if a Christian is required to love, and to show that he has charity, he must be longsuffering. It is imperative that we are slow to wrath, and slow to punish (James 1:19). When others do us wrong, we need to preserve patiently, bravely and endure those misfortunes and troubles that come are way (Matthew 18:21, 22).
Why is it that we can understand that when we teach others about God, we know we are to "love the sinner, hate the sin?" But, when we interact with fellow Christians we often have the exact opposite attitude and find ourselves far from longsuffering. In fact, we can often find our brothers and sisters contemptible, despite the fact that we are serving the same God! (I John 1:5-10).
We often judge those around us harshly, instead of working together for the cause of Christ. We become soldiers battling each other, forgetting that we have a common foe and a common mission, to seek and to save that which is lost. (Luke 19:10, Matthew 28: 19:20)
Charity Does not Envy
Thayer defines the Greek word zeloo, which corresponds to the English word envy, as meaning "to be heated or to boil with envy, hatred, anger." Love does not hate, or boil with anger. That should be obvious to a Christian, but often times hatred, and anger are all too familiar to Christians.
Envy also pertains to the idea of a feeling of discontent or covetousness with regard to another's advantages, success, and possessions, according to Webster's Dictionary. What a horrible, horrible feeling to have towards another person, especially a fellow laborer in Christ. Some brothers and sisters grow envious due to another's possessions, popularity, or even another's work in the church. We must strive hard to squash any feelings of envy the moment that they begin to emerge. We should never cultivate envy, but chop it down like the weed that it is. Love does not envy.
Charity Vaunteth not Itself
Vaunt, is an old word that is not as familiar to people as it once was. Vaunt is synonymous with the word brag. According to Webster's Dictionary, "to brag or vaunt one's self is to make an ostentatious (flashy or showy) display, of one's own worth, property, or actions." A person full of love does not brag. We are not to value ourselves above others. We must not have the attitude that our own worth is more than anyone else's worth.
God does not discriminate based on our gender, race, nationality, affluence, or poverty (Romans 2:11, Galatians 3:28). God sent His only son to die for all mankind (John 3:14-18, II Corinthians 5:15). We must follow Christ's example and humble ourselves by showing kindness and love to those around us. If Christ who was God, and was with God from the Genesis (John 1: 1-5), could humble Himself to a horrible death on the cross (Philippians 2:8), why do we find it hard to humble ourselves around those we encounter on a daily basis, and those we call brother and sister in the Lord's church?
We must not vaunt ourselves, brag about ourselves, or put others down, just because we feel in some distorted way that someone is not as good as us. We are nothing without Christ, but through Him we are more than conquerors (Romans 8:32-39).
Charity is Not Puffed Up
According to Webster's Dictionary, "to be puffed up is to be swollen with air, or inflated with vanity or pride." Love is not vain. Imagine for a moment a puffer fish. Before it is frightened it is a normal looking fish. This fish is completely toxic to anything that tries to ingest it. When the puffer fish encounters a threat it becomes inflated with water and sometimes even air. It is a defense mechanism, that protects it from harm.
A person with a prideful or vain attitude can be easily detected just like a puffer fish. These foul traits cannot be hidden, because like that puffer fish, a person who is vain and prideful appears inflated by their speech, actions and attitudes towards others. They have a toxic attitude that not only damages everyone around them, but places a black mark on the very church itself. We must not be puffed up if we are to have the love God wants us to have (Philippians 2:8).
Life without Charity
Life without love is worthless. According to the apostle Paul, if we spoke with tongues, if we had faith that could move mountains, if we had all knowledge, if we offered our bodies as a sacrifice and do not have love, it would all be pointless. Love is a foundational block that everything rests upon. God sent His son because He loved us. Christ humbled Himself to die on the cross because He loved us. How can we go through our lives and profess to love God, His church, and His children and not exhibit the characteristics of love?
God loves you!