Monday, November 1, 2010

"Charity Suffereth Long"

Charity is one of the most frequently talked about attributes or personality traits that we should have.  And yet at the same time, it can be one of the most difficult traits to develop.

What exactly is charity?  Mormon, a prophet in ancient America, taught the people about charity when he said, "Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail— But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him." (Moroni 7:45-46)

The pure love of Christ.  As missionaries, we talk to many different people, and the topic of Jesus Christ's life often comes up.  I've noticed that the most common thing that people think about when they think of Our Savior's life is His love, His compassion, or the way that He treated all around Him.  And rightfully so.  No matter who came before Him, He found the perfect way to love them and serve them, and it changed the lives of those who were with Him.

The apostle Paul taught much about charity as well, one of his more famous teachings being found in 1 Corinthians 13.  There is so much from this chapter that could be discussed here, but I want to focus on just the first verse for now.

"Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal." (1 Corinthians 13:1)

Right now, I am serving as a leader over several missionaries.  Often I wonder how it is that I can best help these missionaries to be the best they can, and to do things the right way.  I think that all throughout our lives, we see people that we love dearly who are making choices that are leading them on a pathway that we can see will not lead to the best of results.  This is a hard thing to watch, and I always wonder how to help them see that there is an easier way.  I've been thinking a lot about that lately.

This morning, we had a leadership meeting, and a light turned on for me.  I could stand up and call people out all day, and probably never make very much of a difference, other than probably making them more resolute to not change.  If we merely tell people what they are doing wrong, that doesn't help at all.  No one likes being told that they are doing something wrong.  It makes us feel like we are being looked down upon, that the other person has a "holier than thou" view of us.  No fun.

Instead of calling people out, we should first explain to them why we are trying to help them.  We need to let them know that we care for them, and that we are simply trying to help.  As they understand that, those we are trying to help will begin to see our comments not as tearing criticism, but as positive and constructive feedback.  It's certainly not an easy thing to do, but I truly believe that as we let them know how much we love them, it will help to smooth things over.

In the year 1839, the prophet Joseph Smith was being held captive in Liberty Jail, Missouri.  He and those with him had been held for several months in brutal conditions, and Joseph cried unto the Lord, asking for His hand to be shown unto them in some form.  The Lord told them that their afflictions would be for a small moment, and that through our trials we can learn to trust God.  As part of this revelation, Joseph Smith received instructions pertaining to leadership, and how one can righteously serve and guide.  Part of this revelation is as follows:

"No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
"By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile—
"Reproving betimes with sharpness, when moved upon by the Holy Ghost; and then showing forth afterwards an increase of love toward him whom thou hast reproved, lest he esteem thee to be his enemy;
"That he may know that thy faithfulness is stronger than the cords of death."

Basically it's saying that we cannot force anything on anyone, but we need to serve in love and let people know we truly care about them.  The part I wanted to point out was there towards the end, that at times, we may need to be sharp and honest with people, but we need to afterwards let them know even more that we care about them, and just want them to be successful and safe.

My dad is one of the greatest examples of this to me.  He would often have to call me out on something that I was doing wrong, and that would frustrate me.  As I would be sitting there, wanting to be mad at him for pointing out my flaws, he would tell me he loved me, or say something totally goofy, or just whatever, and I would know that he wasn't mad at me, and he didn't want me to be mad at him either.  I still don't know fully how it worked, but somehow that action would always make it so that I couldn't be mad at him anymore, unless I tried really hard.  And trying really hard to be mad at someone isn't exactly the most productive way to spend time.

I guess what I'm getting at is that today, this really hit home with me.  As we show forth Christ-like charity, and truly love those around us, they will come to understand our reasoning for guiding them and trying to help them.  We need to pray for charity, and as we strive to show forth that love, we will be blessed with the ability to do so.  I'm definitely not perfect at it, but I am striving to live worthy of that blessing, and will make a greater effort from this time forward.

Mormon, the prophet, closed that same address quoted above with these words, which I close with.

"Wherefore, my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ; that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure. Amen."

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