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I think back to when I was a youth. I imagine being at church one Sunday and having beloved Bishop Smoot call me out of class. He would point toward his office. “There is someone who wants to talk with you.” As we neared his office, he revealed, “It is Jesus.” The bishop opened the door and I stumbled reluctantly into the presence of the Lord of the universe.
I have thought often what my reaction would have been. I think I would have taken a chair and hung my head. I did so many selfish and unkind things! I put down my brother whenever he annoyed me. I was careless with my sister’s requests. I was judgmental and self-serving. I was often unkind.
Sure. These are garden-variety failings. I was not committing crimes. But I was not being kind to the people God called me to love and serve.
I imagine hearing paper rustle. Jesus unrolls a vast spreadsheet. He clears His throat. “You’re a pretty good boy, Wally.” Pause. “But you aren’t doing the things I expect of a disciple. I expect you to help at home. I expect you to show kindness. I expect you to be a good example.”
I feel ashamed of myself. I feel the burn.
Maybe I should have expected more kindness from Jesus. I knew the stock scripture: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).
He offers eternal life—but on condition of believing. Obviously, if I truly believed, I would be a better person. Obviously, I didn’t believe or didn’t believe right.
When we quote John 3:16, we often don’t read the next verse. I wish we did. When, in middle adulthood, I paused on that verse, I was struck!
“For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved” (John 3:17).
What??? He didn’t come to condemn me? The Jesus I knew seemed like the dutiful scribe who catalogued my constant failings. I dreaded coming face-to-face with Him!
But I was wrong! He didn’t come to condemn me! He came to save me!
I have learned a lot about Jesus in the years since my youth. I have learned to trust Him with my sins and weakness. I have learned to go boldly to His throne of grace even in my fallenness. I have learned to call on Him every day for mercy to change my heart. I have learned to call Him my advocate, my trusted friend. I see Him very differently today than I did as a young man.
If our current bishop, Bishop Wildman, called me out of class and led me to his office and announced that Jesus would like to talk with me, my reaction would be very different from what it would have been when I was a youth. I would gasp and rush in to fall at His feet and bathe them with my tears. I would thank Him for loving and teaching me through my decades of mistakes. I would thank Him for putting people in my life to love and lift me. Most of all, I would thank Him for His infinite and eternal sacrifice that makes redemption possible for people who make lots of mistakes.
I’m pretty sure that He would let me get all that out. Then He would lift me from the floor and draw me into His warm embrace. “I love you, Son! I lived so that you would know who I am. I died because I want to get you Home again.”
I am tempted to correct Him and tell Him that He lived and died for all humanity, not just for me. Yet I think I know what He would say: “I lived and died for you, Wally. This is not a generic gift. I have always known you and I have always wanted to perfect and glorify you. This is a very personal offering. In addition, I want to bless every single one of your brothers and sisters with all the glory they will receive.”
“Therefore, let us glory, yea, we will glory in the Lord; yea, we will rejoice, for our joy is full; yea, we will praise our God forever. Behold, who can glory too much in the Lord? Yea, who can say too much of his great power, and of his mercy, and of his long-suffering towards the children of men? Behold, I say unto you, I cannot say the smallest part which I feel” (Alma 26:16).
I can’t wait to meet Jesus.