We are all familiar with the story in Luke of the woman with a 12-year issue of blood (Luke 8:43-48). She spent all her money seeking a cure but had no success. She was broke, worn-out with discouragement and despair, sick, and, because of the ritual uncleanness of her malady, shunned.
As Jesus traveled in a crowd, she sneaked up behind Him and touched Him-and was instantly healed. Jesus, bewildered his disciples by stopping the crowd and asking who had touched Him. Peter essentially responded: “Are you kidding? You’re being jostled by crowds of people and you want an accounting of who touched You?”
But Jesus knew that one of the touches was special. “And Jesus said, Somebody hath touched me: for I perceive that virtue is gone out of me” (Luke 8:46). Among all the bumping there was a touch that drew something out of Him, a touch that cost Him.
Why did He call attention to this? Did He want to embarrass the woman who had already suffered so much?
“And when the woman saw that she was not hid, she came trembling, and falling down before him, she declared unto him before all the people for what cause she had touched him, and how she was healed immediately” (v. 47).
He had a nobler purpose than humiliation: “And he said unto her, Daughter, be of good comfort: thy faith hath made thee whole; go in peace” (v. 48). I think that Jesus wanted her to know that she had not stolen healing from Him; even though it cost Him, He had given it to her gladly. His message was one of love.
Earlier in Luke’s account there is another story of Jesus healing diseases and casting out unclean spirits. A key word shows up again in this account: “And the whole multitude sought to touch him: for there went virtue out of him, and healed them all“ (Luke 6:17).
Again we see that virtue went out of Him. It cost Him personally to help people. It was not some cheap magic; it was hard-won redemptiveness.
Of course the virtue flowed automatically from Him because He was always ready to give. His default setting was healing and helping.
Relationships Entail Cost
We might well ask, what has it cost Jesus to be our friend, our healer, and our Savior? We cannot comprehend the cost. He paid dearly!
So a key lesson of these stories in Luke is that relationships entail cost. This unromantic first truth about relationships is foundational: We must make sacrifices in order to build, sustain, or grow a relationship.
We tend to think that great relationships should be effortless. They just happen with magical energy. The surest sign of a good relationship is its easiness. A great marriage happens because we have met our “soul-mate”, someone who will just naturally understand, love and “complete” us. A great friendship occurs with someone who always fits seamlessly into our life and interests and meets our needs. If people don’t fit that bill, then we become disappointed in them and wonder if we chose the wrong spouse or the wrong friend.
While our culture affirms that view, life experience should cause us to reflect. “What we obtain too easily we esteem too lightly.” Effortless relationships teach us relatively little; we have fun, our needs are met and then, when we are no longer fulfilled, we move on. They do not change us or cause us to grow. Great relationships challenge us. They force us to give up our focus on self. They educate us in sacrifice and commitment. For example, family relationships generally stretch us for a lifetime.
In God’s great directive for heavenly relationships, He provides two keys. One of them is that we “let virtue garnish our thoughts unceasingly” (D&C 121:45). In the context of passages about virtue going out of Jesus in order to bless people, this instruction takes on new significance. Maybe God is inviting far more than wholesome thoughts. I think He is inviting a readiness to appreciate, bless, connect, serve, and heal. He is inviting us to be more like His beloved Son. We, like Jesus, must be willing to sacrifice for the people we love. This may entail offering a listening ear, forgiving someone of their bumblingness or continuing to invest in a relationship even if it isn’t perfectly living up to our expectations.
Healthy, meaningful relationships always entail a cost.
Relationships are Built on Compassion and Forgiveness
There was another instruction God gave for godly relationships: “Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith” (D&C 121:45). It would have been more polite and palatable if God had said: “Have hearts full of love.” He didn’t say that. He went to our bowels which, in scriptural terms, suggests all of our innards. Not just nice feelings. God wants our guts.
He might be saying: “Let everything inside of you have that consuming and redemptive love for the people in your lives that I have for you.” Jesus wants more than niceness. He wants whole-souled commitment.
I think that one of the grounding stories in the latter-day Church was told by Elder Boyd K. Packer in 1977 (“The Balm of Gilead,” Ensign, Nov. 1977, 59). He told of a much-revered and saintly man who had once served as a mission president and whom he came to know when that man needed rides to mission reunions. He was taught a vital lesson by him. Here’s how Elder Packer told the story:
He grew up in a little community with a desire to make something of himself. He struggled to get an education. He married his sweetheart, and presently everything was just right. He was well employed, with a bright future. They were deeply in love, and she was expecting their first child.
The night the baby was to be born, there were complications. The only doctor was somewhere in the countryside tending to the sick. After many hours of labor, the condition of the mother-to-be became desperate. Finally the doctor was located. In the emergency, he acted quickly and soon had things in order. The baby was born and the crisis, it appeared, was over.
Some days later, the young mother died from the very infection that the doctor had been treating at another home that night. John’s world was shattered. Everything was not right now; everything was all wrong. He had lost his wife. He had no way to tend both the baby and his work. As the weeks wore on, his grief festered. “That doctor should not be allowed to practice,” he would say. “He brought that infection to my wife. If he had been careful, she would be alive today.” He thought of little else, and in his bitterness, he became threatening. . . .
One night a knock came at his door. A little girl said simply, “Daddy wants you to come over. He wants to talk to you.” “Daddy” was the stake president. A grieving, heartbroken young man went to see his spiritual leader. This spiritual shepherd had been watching his flock and had something to say to him. The counsel from that wise servant was simply, “John, leave it alone. Nothing you do about it will bring her back.
Anything you do will make it worse. John, leave it alone.”
My friend told me then that this had been his trial-his Gethsemane. How could he leave it alone? Right was right! A terrible wrong had been committed and somebody must pay for it. It was a clear case.
But he struggled in agony to get hold of himself. And finally, he determined that whatever else the issues were, he should be obedient… He determined to follow the counsel of that wise spiritual leader. He would leave it alone.
Then he told me, “I was an old man before I understood! It was not until I was an old man that I could finally see a poor country doctor-overworked, underpaid, run ragged from patient to patient, with little medicine, no hospital, few instruments, struggling to save lives, and succeeding for the most part.
He had come in a moment of crisis, when two lives hung in the balance, and had acted without delay.”
“I was an old man,” he repeated, “before I finally understood! I would have ruined my life,” he said, “and the lives of others.” Many times he had thanked the Lord on his knees for a wise spiritual leader who counseled simply, “John, leave it alone.”
And that is the counsel I bring again to you. If you have a festering grudge, if you are involved in an acrimonious dispute, “Behold what the scripture says [and it says it fifty times and more]-man shall not smite, neither shall he judge; for judgment is mine, saith the Lord, and vengeance is mine also, and I will repay” (Mormon 8:20).
I say therefore, “John, leave it alone. Mary, leave it alone.” [End of Elder Packer’s words]
What does this great story have to do with charity? Perhaps the commonest form of charity is simple forgiveness. In our families and friendship circles, we are invited to do what Jesus did better than any of us: set aside all charges against the people in our lives. Set aside the ways they have disappointed us. See past the weakness and frailties to the hopes and intentions of our fellow travelers. Jesus invites us to see each other redemptively.
So what are the keys to godly relationships? I think they are a willingness to sacrifice combined with charity-the willingness to forgive.
God promises unbelievable blessings for those who apply these two principles:
then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God;
and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion,
and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth;
and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion,
and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever. (D&C 121:45-46).
Remarkable promises! May God bless us to follow the principles that will allow us to enjoy the sacred blessing of godly relationships.
Thanks to Barbara Keil for her helpful insights on this article.