Bruce Collins, Evangelist

The personal website of Bruce Collins

The Question



John 15:12-13 This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.


Four Words for Love

The Greek language has four words for love.  One of the words is the word often translated charity and is love that is expressed to another but that is not necessarily appreciated by the recipient.  It is often associated with duty.  It is associated with sacrifice.  It is the love that God shows the world in John 3:16:  “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”  Another word for love is the word from which we get friend.  Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love, takes its name from this Greek word.  This kind of love is a love that is appreciated by the recipient.  Normally this kind of love is associated with a relationship between two people. The Greek language also has a word for erotic love which is not found in the New Testament.  In addition, another word translated kindly affectionate is found in Romans 12:10.  Obviously, the two words that God uses to express the beauty of the basic scriptural command to love God and love one another are the word for charity and the word for a friend. 


So would you rather be loved by God with his love of charity or would you rather be loved by God as a friend?


Some have said that the love of charity is the greatest love.  I am assuming that they are basing that on the last statement in that great love chapter, 1 Corinthians 13:  “And now abide faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.”  Since we cannot argue with Scripture, charity is greater than any other gift mentioned in chapter 12, 13, and 14.  But friendship is not one of the gifts mentioned in these chapters.  So is charity greater than friendship?  It is in the sense that Christian charity should be a permanent characteristic of those who say that they are Christians.  It is greater in the sense that it self-sacrificing and friendship may be self-serving.  However, there is something satisfying about a personal intimate relationship that may not be present when charity is shown.  Charity lays the basis for that intimacy, and friendship should be the result.  In one sense friendship is better (perhaps greater would not be the best choice of words) than charity because friendship is a two way street while charity may be only a one way street.  Charity may be offered but it may not be accepted; and, sometimes when it is accepted, it may not be appreciated.  Friendship usually is greatly appreciated and meets emotional needs not always met by charity.


What is MY Answer?

At one time I would have said that I would rather have God’s charity than God’s friendship.  But as I have thought about it, I believe that friendship that results from God’s charity is where the real blessing is found.  In John 15:12, the disciples are commanded to have charity for each other.  Then they are reminded that His charity led to His friendship.  He laid down His life for His friends.  The Lord did call Judas a friend when he betrayed Him in the garden, but by and large the word friend is reserved by the Lord for those who trust Him and worship Him.  Abraham, the father of faith, was a friend of God.  Obviously, God was his friend as well.  In John 11, the Lord was a friend of Lazarus, but He also was showing charity to Martha, Mary, and Lazarus.


My answer to the question I have asked is that I am glad that this is not an either/or proposition.  I am glad to know that the Lord has shown me charity but I am also really glad that He is my friend.  He has proved that over and over again.  And in our relationship with other Christians, we need to show charity, but it seems to me that charity that does not lead to true friendship is really empty.  


We Need to be Real

Sometimes we have our so-called friends come to us and tell us that what they are going to say is because they “love” us.  Often, those people have done nothing in a charitable way to prove their love, but they feel free to criticize without really knowing the person that they are “loving.”  I personally do not find that they are doing what they are doing because of their love, but instead they seem to be establishing who is in charge.  Sometimes I wish that those who express their love so that they can express their criticisms would love me less.  Now those who have proven that they would die for me, they can correct and criticize me all that they want.  But I suspect that those who would die for me, would also do their correcting the way the Lord corrected Peter in John 21.  You will remember that He asked Peter if he really did have charity for Him.  Peter had to admit that he only had the love of friend.  And he reminded the Lord that He really already knew this.  That was good enough for the Lord, and from then on the Lord knew that He had a faithful friend who would be willing to die for Him.  Peter who had failed, was commissioned to tend and feed the Lord’s sheep.  I think his friendship was probably just as important to the Lord as his intended charity for the Lord.


Yes, charity is great, but friendship is really precious, particularly when it is the Lord’s friendship.


Bruce Collins


Meditation for the week of September 20, 2015

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