We all know the famous statement of
We know this word for word, but it is likely that only a few of us can
reach the true meaning of the sentence. The crucial point here is of course in
the word charity. How does Paul understand it? Is it just a common human feeling
that people are said to experience in their relations to other people, their
love ones? Or is it meant to point at some far more essential concept beyond the
commonplace usage of the word?
After writing this statement the apostle is trying to explain how he
defines the charity: “Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not;
charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily
provoked, thinketh no evil;
rejoiceth not in iniquity,
but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all
things, endureth all things (King James version of the text).
Certainly we often think that we are rejoicing in the truth, but in fact
we are just happy if things go according to our wishes. The truth here lies
above all thought forms, even the finest ones.
We should see that he is writing of the fundamental basis of all being,
of the life beyond all that we usually sense as life. By talking about sounding
brass and tinkling cymbal Paul is characterising a normal human behaviour which
is based on thoughts and feelings adapted in the course of this temporal life.
It is easy to say that in the daily life of a human being this kind of
charity is totally impossible. That is a fact if we think of people in their
normal state and understanding, strictly bounded with their inherited and
learned thinking and feeling processes.
Everybody can see that people in their daily life don’t exercise
Luke’s writing: “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and
with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy
neighbour as thyself.” But we love God as we love a cow – for the milk we
expect from her (a statement of Master Eckhart)!
Further more people do not really follow the advice: “Thou shalt love
thy neighbour as thyself.” Because they do not know themselves, which means
that they cannot reach the ultimate basis of love.
A human love can in time turn to its opposite, and it has an awkward
inclination to insist some return service – in other words - to do business.
So we can see that also these two clear pieces of advice from the bible
most probably characterise in the first place the divine love as the ultimate
goal for the people who are getting fed up with being captured by the functions
of their minds.
By defining charity in so many words