The ultimate gift of love is charity

Published 7:00 am Thursday, February 20, 2014

By  Jonathan Filkins

Guest Columnist 

Imagine you are standing, outside of the safety railing, on a bridge, over a deep chasm. So deep you can barely see the raging river below. Attached to your ankles are large, over-length, rubber bands called “bungee” cords. These were attached to your body, by a person you have not met before, nor do you have any experience with what is about to happen. Fear strikes you. You begin sweating and experience a wave of vertigo. Looking down, you have been told the drop is slightly less than 1,000 feet, and it seems like 10,000. You muse that it is of little difference what the drop is, as anything much over 10 feet is likely to have dire consequences.

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The fear returns and rises, the pain in the gut grows, as the cheers from the onlookers increase. You are pushed from your perch by some malcontent and go sailing towards the abyss. Down and down. Ever faster and faster, with your screams echoing in your ears as the torrent of air passes by and the swift rise of earth comes from below. Surely, this is the end!

But, wait. There is that tug of those cords, exercising their restraint. Slowly at first, and then with increased tension, you are stopped short from the drop and find yourself rising to a great distance above the foaming fray. It is repeated, until you stop in mid-air like some trussed bass. You rise from below to the well-wishers who pay homage to the “fearless” master of flight. Yet, you know the truth; the experience scared you to your soul. After it was all over, you offered your thanks to God, for his care for you as He, made the experience possible and…to allow it to happen again!

For many of us, the thought of jumping from a bridge, or an airplane, or a burning house, emotes our fears. It makes no difference what the circumstances are, as we find fear to be a very essential part of our being. However, it is in our nature to be less cautious, ergo less fearful, about the not-quite-so-obvious perils in our lives. Consider the perennial criminal. Here we find someone so fear-less, and therefore so love-less, they commit all sort of offensive acts against those who love others.

Yet, many of us let fear, rather than love, dictate the tenor of our relationships with others, with ourselves, and with God. We often fearfully restrain ourselves, wondering what the financial, or emotional, or physical cost will be with the potential commitment, or activity. We may not even love ourselves as we push through our fears. Christ Jesus tells us the essentials of being a Christian, as He told us about the greatest attributes of His followers, “Faith, hope and charity, these three. But the greatest of these is charity.”

Charity is the ultimate gift of loving without recompense, without seeking a return gift, or even looking for a “thank you.” It is a very difficult to do, given we are mortals. Charity is very much like jumping off a bridge. It is difficult to do. Once accomplished, it becomes like anything extraordinary we would do in our lives, as we overcome our fears, by His love.

Father Jonathan Filkins is the Canon of St. Barnabas Anglican Church.