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Cover image via Greg Olsen.
We’ve been reading and studying the life of Jesus through the Come, Follow Me program this year. As I read again the accounts from Mathew, Mark, Luke and John of His final day – His final hours, finishing His sacrifice on our behalf, I am struck – I’m in Awe, of His love for every one of us. For You, for me, for every single person. We know he was betrayed, mocked, beaten and crucified. It’s so hard to imagine Him being treated with such hatred, anger and violence! He did nothing but good continually.
But even on the last day of His mortal ministry, He was filled with love and forgiveness.
Of the many principles demonstrated through this remarkable act, I’d like to focus our attention for a moment on three things: To Love, To Forgive, and To Repent.
The Atonement is the ultimate act of love and forgiveness. And what does God ask of us in return? To repent, to forgive each other, and to love.
That sounds wonderful, and I know it’s the right way, but…
- He hurt me so badly!
- It’s not fair!
- I don’t deserve to be treated that way!
- They cheated!
- He stole from me!
- I was betrayed!
These emotions flow easily from the experiences of life, but what’s the alternative to repentance, forgiveness and love? To be angry, to be resentful, to withdraw, to attack, to gossip. Does that sound like the person you want to be? The way you want to live?
You can’t be bitter and expect your life to be sweet.
You may think that when someone does something offensive to you, that they’re doing it to you. They’re not. It isn’t about you at all. But if you take it personally, you make it about you and suffer right along with them.
This is one reason why the Savior says that when we don’t forgive others there remains in us the greater sin!
An unforgiving heart will hold you back in life far more than anything anyone can ever do to you.
Let’s consider the first of these three principles.
Elder Holland said that “It is loving, not being loved, that brings us truly close to another”. If God loves us, as we believe He does, why is there unhappiness? And we need look no further than our own experience to know this is true. Do you love someone and yet they’re unhappy?
So, what actually makes you happy? It’s loving – feeling love for someone else. Like your love for a child or a grandchild. It can be hard to describe, but you know that feeling of Joy and happiness when it’s there. And you’d do anything for them.
Love the VERB comes before love the Noun.
Stephen Covey shared an experience he had speaking to a large group. Afterward, one of the audience came to him for advice. He said that he didn’t love his wife any longer, that they had grown apart and he was asking for counsel.
Stephen said, “Love her.”
“But I told you, I don’t love her anymore – I just don’t feel anything. What should I do?”
“But I just told you that I don’t – We fell out of love and it just isn’t there. I don’t think I’m helping her or me. I’m confused about what to do.”
“My friend, LOVE the VERB comes before LOVE the NOUN.”
“Discover how you can serve her and demonstrate love to and for her. Treat her with utmost respect. Put her needs before yours. See to her welfare and you’ll find the Love you seek – and far greater.”
The Poet Edwin Markham said,
He drew a circle that shut me out –
Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!
Because of the Savior’s humility, strength and complete knowledge of His Father’s Plan of Happiness, he finished the Atonement – This incomprehensibly painful and impossible task! And In so doing, He drew a circle that takes all of us in!
His Love makes our ability to love possible and complete. But we must act – we must demonstrate Love. Love the VERB comes before Love the Noun. Or we could say, Love the ACTION comes before love the Feeling.
And what of Forgiveness?
I don’t know the difference between Love and Forgiveness.
I can’t see it!
Again and again, Jesus demonstrates through His words and His actions, that to forgive is to love – and to love is to forgive.
Forgiving and being forgiven are two sides of the same coin.
Jesus taught this principle with a story in Matthew 18:24-35
I’ll paraphrase here for brevity:
A servant was brought to the King, which owed him 10,000 talents – An incredibly large sum of money! But the servant couldn’t pay, so the King commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
But the servant fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. The king was moved with compassion, and forgave him the debt.
But the servant went out, and found one of his fellowservants, which owed him an hundred pence (About 3-4 months wages of a common working man – an almost completely insignificant sum in comparison to the debt just forgiven), and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me what you owe me! The man fell down at his feet, and begged him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
But he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
When others saw this, they told the king all that was done. Then his King said to him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because you asked me: Shouldn’t you also have had compassion on your fellowservant, even as I had pity on you? And his King was angry, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.
And here’s where the Savior brings it home for you and for me:
So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.
Again, in Doctrine & Covenants Section 64:8-10, He counsels us:
8 My disciples, in days of old, sought occasion against one another and forgave not one another in their hearts; and for this evil they were afflicted and sorely chastened.
9 Wherefore, I say unto you, that ye ought to forgive one another; for he that forgiveth not his brother his trespasses standeth condemned before the Lord; for there remaineth in him the greater sin.
10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
Can you search you own life and recall how you were afflicted and sorely chastened by not forgiving?
Consider how much more often you have suffered from your anger and grief than from those very things for which you were angered and grieved! Every time you remember them and dwell on those negative emotions, you experience the pain again and again. Justice would have someone suffer once, but we suffer a thousand times. That’s neither justice nor mercy.
CS Lewis said:
“To be a Christian means to forgive the inexcusable because God has forgiven the inexcusable in you.”
I must forgive the inexcusable in others because God has forgiven the inexcusable in me!
That word Inexcusable –That sounds pretty bad, doesn’t it? But what does that really mean? And what have I done that is inexcusable?
Anything requiring repentance is inexcusable, because ANY of it keeps me from God.
In Doctrine & Covenants Section 1:31 the Lord says,
“For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.”
That takes in – everything!
Now, in all our efforts to do better and be better, we still blow it. We still lose our temper, judge wrongfully, hold on to grudges and resentment, gossip, fuel our pride and are careless in our relationships with others and with God.
Fortunately, there’s verse 32 of that same section: “Nevertheless, he who repents and does the commandments of the Lord shall be forgiven.”
Which brings us to the 3rd principle, which the Savior’s amazing Atonement makes possible.
Sometimes we act like our Conscience is the still small voice that tells us what other people should do. But that Light of Christ is there for YOU and ME– to guide and direct and inspire, if we’re willing to be humble, listen and act.
The word “Repent” or “Repentance” is found throughout the scriptures.
- In the Bible 133 times
- In the Doctrine & Covenants 135 times
- In the Book of Mormon 382 times
The Lord’s counsel to us is clear.
In the Priesthood session of this last General Conference, President Nelson shared his counsel on Repentance:
“Too many people consider repentance as punishment—something to be avoided except in the most serious circumstances. But this feeling of being penalized is engendered by Satan. He tries to block us from looking to Jesus Christ, who stands with open arms, hoping and willing to heal, forgive, cleanse, strengthen, purify, and sanctify us.
The word for repentance in the Greek New Testament is metanoeo. The prefix meta- means “change.” The suffix -noeo is related to Greek words that mean “mind,” “knowledge,” “spirit,” and “breath.”
“When Jesus asks you and me to “repent,” He is inviting us to change our mind, our knowledge, our spirit—even the way we breathe. He is asking us to change the way we love, think, serve, spend our time, treat our wives, teach our children, and even care for our bodies.
Nothing is more liberating, more ennobling, or more crucial to our individual progression than is a regular, daily focus on repentance. Repentance is not an event; it is a process. It is the key to happiness and peace of mind. When coupled with faith, repentance opens our access to the power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ.
Whether you are diligently moving along the covenant path, have slipped or stepped from the covenant path, or can’t even see the path from where you are now, I plead with you to repent. Experience the strengthening power of daily repentance—of doing and being a little better each day.
When we choose to repent, we choose to change! We allow the Savior to transform us into the best version of ourselves.”
I need to do better and be better because we’re in a battle. The adversary is quadrupling his efforts! Ask Heavenly Father to show you what is standing in the way of you making needed changes.
What do I need to start doing and what do I need to stop doing so I can do better and be better than ever before?
President Nelson gave us two ways to do better and be better:
I treat my body
- The gift of this body allows me to become more like God
- Most of the temptations the adversary puts in our path are designed to harm our own body or those of others
- Satan is miserable without a body and so wants us to be miserable because of ours
I treat the women in my life – wives and daughters, mothers and sisters
- My first and foremost duty is my companionship with my wife
- Nothing on any screen is more important than her well-being
- Pray to have my heart attuned to her heart
- Seek her counsel and listen – her input will improve my output!
- The forces of evil have never been more intense than they are today!
My focus must be on daily repentance. This is the only way I can keep my family safe. The Lord needs selfless men and women who put the welfare of others ahead of their own. Men and women who strive to Do Better and Be Better.
I know that as you and I make these efforts to REPENT, to FORGIVE and to LOVE, we will experience miracles in our lives. Let me emphasize this promise from God:
You will experience miracles in your life as you repent, forgive and love.
The Prophet has made this promise to us, as has the Lord, whose Atoning Sacrifice makes it all possible.