Why is “charity” such an important term for our congregation? For starters, it’s in our church’s name.
Small tangent: Divinity-Divine Charity is a consolidation of two churches, hence the two names. Divinity focuses on the divine, holy nature of our God. Divine Charity focuses on our God as being compassionate and longsuffering. Our church’s name sounds like a tautology, but they are distinct terms. Ok, back to the word “charity!”
Charity is a word that emphasizes an act of compassion or kindness towards those in need. There are charities for clean water, clothing, food, abused animals, etc. A charity by nature shows concern for those less fortunate. Picture this word much like we do with empathy (a psychological counterpart to charity): Imagine that a person has fallen into a deep ditch and can’t get out. Instead of looking down sympathetically and saying “I’m so sorry”, charity would involve us going down into the pit to be with the person, sharing in their suffering, and actively trying to get them out of the ditch.
For Christians, the idea is that charity is simply something we do. It’s not a requirement for salvation. It’s not a tool we have to pull out when there’s a problem that directly affects us. It’s something we do because we are convicted by faith that our God loved us enough to share in our suffering and fix the problem of our sin through his Son Jesus Christ.
“While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” (Romans 5:8) That is divine charity right there. Christ shared in our sufferings to the point of death on a cross, and all this because he chose to demonstrate compassion on us poor, destitute sinners.
The message of the gospel moves us to act in love. As the reformer Martin Luther says in a commentary on Galatians: "Faith gives love its proper form and adorns it." While not the cause of our salvation, our acts of charity certainly are proof of our faith in a loving, compassionate and charitable God.
So: Charity has been embraced into our heritage, for it is in our church’s name. Our prayer is that it would be much more than that; may we show concern for all who are spiritually or physically destitute. God grant it.