When we die, the major criterion in our evaluation or "judgment" or at least one of the major criteria will have to do with charity.
How kind are we to others? Another way of putting it is "goodwill."
Do you have goodwill, wish the best for others? Is this a habit of yours -- a natural inclination?
If not, work this Lent -- please -- on making it be. Don't let your feelings run your life. Discipline them. Don't just act on emotional impulses. Feelings can lead you astray. The pain of discipline is less than the pain, later, of regret.
It's very important.
No, it's not the only thing that brightens or darkens the soul. It's not the only transgression. But it's something we have to always be cognizant of.
"If you remove from your midst oppression, false accusation and malicious speech; If you bestow your bread on the hungry and satisfy the afflicted; Then light shall rise for you in the darkness, and the gloom shall become for you like midday," says the Lord in Isaiah 58:9.
What's the opposite of goodwill?
Bad will. (Better known as a curse). You're letting emotions control you. You're giving in to feelings.
Are we charitable in what we think?
Are we charitable in what we say?
Are we charitable in what we do for others, even while struggling ourselves?
Do we try to see the standpoints of others?
Can we walk away from insult?
Do we always consider another person's feelings -- or do we justify harshness in a self-righteous way?
This is epidemic in religion: the notion of superiority that lends itself to a spiritual pride that takes no prisoners. Wing off that angry e-mail! Write that disdainful blog! Film that nasty YouTube clip!
You are justified... no?
There are times and seasons for corrections, but never for harshness, never for lack of mercy, never for correction without proper feelings behind it. Don't deceive yourself.
Are we charitable in what we listen to? Or do we allow ourselves to be suctioned into a whirlpool, a caldron of the negative -- so pervasive in our current societal landscape, especially social media and talk shows?
Be careful. Nothing justifies a lack of mercy. That doesn't mean we brook evil. Absolutely not! But neither do we make everything a battlefield.
Sometimes, males especially like to duke it out. But true masculinity shows strength through kindness (at times, sure: tough love, when there really is love behind the firmness).
When there is sin, it is because of another major word to bear in mind: violation. A vast percentage of sins comes down simply to violating others.
When there is adultery, it comes down to violating another.
Casual sex is a violation -- if not of the other person, of oneself.
Cursing is violating others.
Gouging is violating a fellow human.
Stealing is a violation.
Insult is a violation.
Hatred is a violation.
Jealousy is a violation. Criticism. These are anti-charity.
To violate is to plunder. It is to take. It is to diminish another. It is to invade, trespass upon, intrude on, disrespect. Gossip is a violation. Judging others is a violation.
And not listening to the Holy Spirit, in general, is a violation -- a big one: especially, rejecting His Grace, neglecting His gifts, forging ahead in a worldly way instead of in the strength of God.