Christianity should be a contagious form of lovesickness, if I take “lovesick” to mean “so deeply affected by love as to be unable to act normally.” What happens when we are so in love, we can’t eat, drink, talk or interact the way we used to, the way everyone else does? How would it be if we were all so sick with love for Jesus that others caught our disease?
I have heard I Cor. 13, the Love Chapter, read or quoted more times than I can count. I quoted I Cor. 13 more times than I can count, so, the verse I Cor. 13:13 is familiar to me: (KJV) “and now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity” and (NIV) “and now these three remain, faith, hope and love, but the greatest of these is love.” So love and charity are synonymous, here. In the Greek, the word agape (selfless, giving love) is translated into both “love” and “charity” and you can probably see why. So, true love is selfless and giving. That’s the kind of love Jesus had for us. Some things are lost in translation, though.
In Hebrew, Charity, the word synonymous with love in Greek, is tzedekah. Tzedekah, it appears, doesn’t mean gift giving, the way we see it in our culture. We think of charity as something we give out of abundance, because we want to, or feel moved to.Charity, to us, is entirely optional. If we feel the subject of need is innocent, or photogenic or warm and fluffy, we’ll give. We give to children’s charities and animal charities, but what about to people who aren’t cute, young, hit by natural disaster, what then? Tzedekah means “giving righteously” and is closely related to another Hebrew word, Tzedek. Tzedek is the Hebrew word for justice. Justice isn’t a suggestion. It’s God’s law. Deuteronomy 16: 20 says, “justice, justice, you shall pursue…” There’s no maybe about that. So, to review, love=charity=justice.
Justice is not merely meting out punishment, it’s about keeping the “least of these” from suffering at the hands of “the greatest among you.” What we do for those people at the bottom is what we’re doing for God. It’s easy, it’s simple. The song shouldn’t have asked, “What if God was one of us”… he is one of us. Our love for his creation shows the love we have for the creator (Thanks for that illustrative story, Pastor Brad!) His craftsmanship is in the low and high alike. God is no respecter of persons, so, where do we get off?
How do we show love? How will the world catch our sickness if we have a narrow, self-centered view of charity? I don’t see charity as a choice; God commanded us to love one another, as he loved us. And he loved us so much that he gave his only son to die for us. So, what if we showed love, showed charity, showed justice to the world. How would that look? What would be the result? Justice = charity= love and that ingredient is what takes Christianity from being an isolated manifestation of the sickness into a full-fledged epidemic. When we stop seeing love as an option and see if for what it is, a life-changing, life-affirming chronic condition that we spread through human contact, then, maybe, we can be the contagious Christians Jesus called us to be.