Faith Column: By this shall men know ye are my disciples
We live in a turbulent time in our nation’s history, a time of economic disruption, anger, and destructive protests. Unfortunately, this commotion causes anxiety that affects many of us in varied ways. The question for us who are followers of Jesus Christ is: “What course do we follow when the law of the land seems to be at odds with what we believe?”
Whenever facing a challenge or troubled by a perplexing question, I like to turn to the scriptures for answers because from them comes the guidance I seek. This guidance is especially clear in the Savior’s teachings as recorded in the Gospels.
In reflecting upon this question while reading in the twenty-second chapter of Matthew a number of verses touched me. In them we learn the Pharisees counseled together to determine how they might trap the Savior by asking a question addressed by Mosaic Law. However, as they questioned Him He perceived their purpose and said, “Shew me the tribute money. And they brought unto him a penny. And he saith unto them, Whose is this image and superscription? They say unto him, Cæsar’s. Then saith he unto them, Render therefore unto Cæsar the things which are Cæsar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s” (See Matthew 22:15-22.).
The counsel for us in this example is that we are to live within the bounds set by the laws of the land we live in. This does not mean we have to agree with every law governing us but it does mean we obey the law. Then through the peaceful means proscribed by the law we work to effect any change we deem necessary. When we do this two things begin to happen: 1) we slowly begin to change our society, person by person transforming it from one of turmoil and contention to one of peace and kindness, and 2) we personally enter upon the path of meekness, learning to be submissive to God’s will, on His terms, and on His timetable.
This means that until the changes we seek come, we will have to endure many difficult things that require patience, perhaps even great patience. How do we do this? The Savior tells us “A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another” (See John 13:34-35.).
When thinking of the Savior’s love I liken it to a stone thrown into a pond. The concentric rings start small, where the stone entered the pond, and then expand outward until they encompass the entire pond. He loved His apostles, He loved His disciples, He loved those who spat upon Him, He love those who smote his cheeks, He loved those who cried out, “Crucify him,” He loved those who scourged Him, and He loved those who crucified Him. Truly, there is not any one unloved by the Savior.
The Savior reminds us to “…love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind” (See Matthew 22:37.). Then He tells us that this is the first great commandment in the law saying the second is just like it that, “Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself” (See Matthew 22:39.). Then, so there is no mistake in our understanding as to who our neighbors are the Savior teaches, “Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven…” (See Matthew 5:43-47.).
Remember that the crucified Savior looked into the heavens and said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (See Luke 23:34.). In purity and simplicity, though not easy, the Savior provides us with a perfect example of how to bless and forgive those that curse, hate, persecute and spitefully use us. In a critical moment at the end of His mortal life that included unfathomable pain and suffering He extended love and mercy to those who offered Him none. He always did that which was just, and He loved to extend mercy. May we strive with all our might, mind and strength to love as He loved, extending mercy even when none is offered; so heaven will testify of us that we are His disciples.
Bernie Caracena is a Craig Stake High Counselor at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
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