Question: What is “charity” and how did Paul describe it?
Answer: Charity is that pure love which our Savior Jesus Christ has. He has commanded us to love one another as He loves us. We have pure love when, from the heart, we show genuine concern and compassion for all our brothers and sisters.
* * * * *
1 Corinthians 13:4-8
4 Charity suffereth long (is patient), and is kind; charity envieth not (does not resent others for what they have); charity vaunteth not itself (does not brag), is not puffed up (is not prideful),
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly (indecently), seeketh not her own (is not selfish), is not easily provoked (doesn’t lose its temper), thinketh no evil (doesn’t keep a list of wrongs done by others);
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity (does not delight in wickedness), but rejoiceth in the truth;
7 Beareth all things (keeps quiet about the faults of others), believeth all things (completely trusting in God), hopeth all things (courage and determination), endureth all things (never gives up in following Christ).
8 Charity never faileth (charity is never ineffective): but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away (partial knowledge, false assumptions, philosophies, and opinions will vanish away in the light of truth).
Note: The word “charity” in the original New Testament Greek is defined as “brotherly love, good will, love, benevolence.”
* * * * *
C. Max Caldwell, Second Quorum of the Seventy:
As a young man on a mission, I recall reading Paul’s words to the Corinthian Saints and pondering what he meant by the phrase “faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” (1 Cor. 13:13.) I wondered why charity should be the greatest. Charity was a word I did not understand...
As I searched the pages of the Book of Mormon, I gained a new view. Mormon, an ancient prophet of the Americas, connected the word charity to the Savior. He declared that “charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever.” (Moro. 7:47.)
I considered what was meant by the phrase “love of Christ.” That answer is critical because “the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love.” (2 Ne. 26:30.) If we must have charity, then we must know what it is. The phrase “love of Christ” might have meaning in three dimensions: Love for Christ, Love from Christ, Love like Christ.
First, love for Christ. This concept proclaims Jesus as the object of our love, and our lives should be an external expression of our gratitude for him. Sometimes that is difficult to do...It is difficult to be grateful to the Lord under circumstances we don’t enjoy...Things we don’t enjoy must not overshadow our reasons to maintain our love for the Savior. Otherwise we may lose our perspective or become bitter, and our love for Christ may be lost.
How deeply do we love him? Does our love depend on favorable environments? Is it diminished or strengthened by our experiences? Is our love for him evident by our behavior and our attitude? Charity, or love for Christ, sustains us in every need and influences us in every decision.
A second dimension of the meaning of charity is love from Christ. From a prophet of the Book of Mormon comes an inspired explanation. Speaking to the Lord, Moroni declared: “Thou hast said that thou hast loved the world, even unto the laying down of thy life for the world. …
“This love which thou hast had for the children of men is charity.” (Ether 12:33–34.)...
The Apostle John accurately testified of this infinite though conditional representation of the charity of the Gods when he wrote, “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.” (John 3:16.) This gift of charity is to be received. The Savior’s act of redemption for our sins is of no effect without our willingness to comply with the conditions of his atonement...
A third perception of charity is to possess a love that is like Christ. In other words, people are the object of Christlike love. Nephi said: “I have charity for my people …
“I have charity for the Jew …
“I also have charity for the Gentiles.” (2 Ne. 33:7–9.)
Since Nephi had such love for everyone, we wonder how he acquired it. He must have lived in anticipation of the divine directive that would later be proclaimed by the Savior as the key to the development of love: “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you.” (John 13:34; emphasis added.)
Jesus’ love was inseparably connected to and resulted from his life of serving, sacrificing, and giving in behalf of others. We cannot develop Christlike love except by practicing the process prescribed by the Master...
Charity is not just a precept or a principle, nor is it just a word to describe actions or attitudes. Rather, it is an internal condition that must be developed and experienced in order to be understood. We are possessors of charity when it is a part of our nature. People who have charity have a love for the Savior, have received of his love, and love others as he does...
* * * * *
Sources: Come, Follow Me–For Individuals and Families, p. 136; The New Testament Made Easier, Part 2, Volume 3, by David J. Ridges, 170; Excerpts from General Conference, October 1992, “Love of Christ,” by C. Max Caldwell, of the Second Quorum of Seventy.