Discussing Spiritual Differences- Daniel 1:8-10

But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.
Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs.
And the prince of the eunuchs said unto Daniel, I fear my lord the king, who hath appointed your meat and your drink: for why should he see your faces worse liking than the children which are of your sort? then shall ye make me endanger my head to the king.

COMMENTARY

Now God had brought Daniel into favour and tender love with the prince of the eunuchs
Yesterday I spoke of how Daniel’s moral beliefs were at odds with the prince of the eunuchs’ fears. The two men were at an impasse, but notice from this verse that the relationship between them was not hostile. Daniel had already established a positive relationship with those whom he wished to have respect his culture. Read again the prince’s rejection and you will see that it is not motivated by malice, only by a fear of self-destruction.
In fact all of the exchanges in this story seem to be laced with a certain tenderness, both from Daniel and from his caretakers. All that follows in the tale is only able to occur because it is founded on the love between Daniel and these men.
Surely this is a lesson to all of us when discussing differences in our beliefs. These matters will go far more smoothly if we are able to first establish a mutual respect between us. And if we want respect for our different beliefs, first we need to establish a respect for one another’s person. Love for one another is the foundation of equality.

Discussing Spiritual Differences- Question

It is said that if you want to maintain a friendship you should never discuss religion. We might be able endure differences of opinion in sports and clothing brands, but we won’t tolerate conversations about the things that really matter.

Obviously this timidity to discuss spiritual matters has to do with their inherently sacred nature. We all feel a heightened sensitivity about things which are sacred. These parts are closer to our heart, and therefore a callous word is much more likely to wound our feelings. There is also the tendency to feel judged whenever someone else believes that what we do is a moral wrong.

But I don’t believe the solution should be to cut off communication there. I believe spiritual feelings can be conveyed in a way that is sensitive and loving. I believe that sometimes we need to testify of what we know is right, even if it will be perceived as offensive by the those that we are speaking to. I also believe that there is room to examine one’s intention in how they speak, and room to examine one’s intention in how they listen. With this study I would like to consider exactly those points. How can we share testimony, champion good, and call to repentance in a way that God approves of? How can we hear the opinions of others and receive or reject it as appropriate?

I have already studied a similar topic before, one where I considered how we can remain respectful in our differences of spiritual opinion. But I want to give special attention in this study for those moments where we need to share a spiritual truth that others may fight difficult to hear. I want to focus on both sides of that moment, the giving and the receiving.

In the meantime, I would love to hear about your own experiences in this matter. Have you ever tried to share something out of love, but had it received as if out of hate? Have you ever felt muzzled when trying to champion that which is good? Have you ever felt that you must say what you had to say, no matter how it would be received?

Who Am I?- Personal Example #2

I do wonder if God is ever amused that we get so worked up on mysteries and questions, especially ones to which He has already placed the simplest answers in plain sight. As I found myself trying to reflect on whether I can be a creation, made in the image of my Heavenly Father, and still be an individual, I had the following thought come to me: “well how is it with your own son, Abe?”

I do have a son of my own, and he is very like me. He doesn’t necessarily look a great deal like I do, not even back when I was his age, but his mind and demeanor I find very familiar. My wife has commented on it as well, how he is very much my son, and not hers.

But then, for all the likenesses between us…he is not me. I can understand much of him, I can relate to many of his experiences, but some parts are entirely an enigma. Parts that my wife cannot claim either, things that are just all him.

As my son grows, I expect that he will manifest even more qualities that are like mine, but I know that he will also always be his own individual. My hope is that the two of us will always be close, share common passions and purposes, be united, and be willing to work together…. But that we will always do so as our own selves.

And I wouldn’t have it any other way. Frankly, I do not want another me, I rather like being the only one! So, too, I would much rather that my son be himself.

I am convinced it is the same with God. God has Himself, so that’s already covered. If I made myself just like Him, then I would only be giving Him what He already had, and that isn’t what He’s interested in.

What He really wants from me…is me.

The Virtue of Remembering- Hebrews 12:1, 2 Corinthians 3:12 (ESV)

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold

COMMENTARY

Seeing we are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us run the race before us
Since we have such a hope, we are very bold
Yesterday we considered how Paul inspired the Hebrew saints with the memory of all the miracles that had been done to their ancestors. Immediately after this is his statement from Hebrews 12, that all of these examples of the faithful ought to empower them to be faithful themselves.
Thus Paul used the stories of the Old Testament prophets to inspire those that were familiar with those legends, but to those that were not, such as the saints in Corinth, he instead recalled their own firsthand experience of gaining hope in the message of Christ, and tells them that such faith should make them bold. It is the same message as to the Hebrews, but it is rooted in a different set of memories.
The point is that each of us is given something to start remembering the goodness of God by. For some of us it might be the words of the scriptures that we learned in our youth, for others it is the example of good men and women who pointed us in the right direction, and for others it is the first time that God spoke directly into our hearts. Whatever it is, each of us have something to think back to that inspires us to do great things.

Respect in Our Differences- Summary

When I first began this blog, I did have a list of specific topics to cover with it. I never had any intention of stressing the need for unity so heavily, but over the months it has certainly become a recurring theme for me. My studies just keep coming back to this idea over and over. Perhaps it is a message I really need to share, or perhaps it is a message I really need to hear.

I certainly haven’t grown tired of promoting it, though. The more I think about it, the more I see the gospel as a vehicle of unity. Unity between us and God, unity between each other. If we could remove our divisions from our fellowman, we would no longer sin against each other. And if we could remove our divisions from God, we would no longer sin against Him either.

In this study I wanted to focus on a specific division that so often falls between us: that of different religious beliefs. I wanted to advocate for holding to your own beliefs, for maintaining your confidence in your own truth, but also for being gracious to those that disagree. Here are a few of the main points from this study.

We Are a Bigoted People

To our society’s credit, we have made great strides in breaking down some of the walls that divide us. It is generally accepted that I should not look at another person’s skin color, gender, income level, or educational degree, and judge them as inferior.
These are wonderful developments, ones that break down the mentality of “us” and “them.” It allows us to truly view one another as brothers and sisters, and to work together for our common good.
Unfortunately, the same progress can’t be claimed when it comes to differences of opinion. People might be accepting of outward appearance, but they cannot tolerate someone that thinks differently from themselves. Once you call yourself a conservative or a liberal, you have made enemies. Once you disclose that you are spiritual or atheistic, people start labeling you as an idiot. Once you speak for or against any social clause, you are recognized as fundamentally flawed forever.
3 Nephi 11:29-30- For verily, verily I say unto you, he that hath the spirit of contention is not of me, but is of the devil, who is the father of contention, and he stirreth up the hearts of men to contend with anger, one with another.
Behold, this is not my doctrine, to stir up the hearts of men with anger, one against another; but this is my doctrine, that such things should be done away.

We Are on the Same Side

To be clear, I absolutely believe that there are forces of evil in this world. I see wolves in sheep’s clothing, trying to lead flocks astray. I fear that certain social movements have the express intention of undermining the foundation of good that Christ has given us.
But I see all this, and still believe that we are far too quick to label our brothers and sisters as servants of the devil. The fact is, most of those that disagree with you also want the exact same things as you: to spread good through the world. Just because another ideology does not use the right name, or emphasize the right focus, or worship on the right day, does not mean that it is a force of pure evil!
Human beings are basically good. They are all born with the mark of divinity within them. Yes, they are all flawed, but they are also all tended towards good by default. Take any person off the street, and it is almost a certainty that that person is your true brother or sister in their heart. Yes you have a few differences, but you also have so much more in common.
2 Kings 6:16- They that be with us are more than they that be with them.
Luke 9:50- And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

Who Are You Fighting?

I believe that all of Satan’s attacks fall into one of two categories. The first is to challenge our belief that we are truly sons and daughters of God. The second is to challenge our belief that our brothers and sisters are also sons and daughters of God. He breaks many of us with the first assault, and catches many of the rest with the second. Those that fall to the first assault will sin against God. Those that fall to the second will sin against their fellowman.
When the young ruler came to Jesus, he attested that all his life he had kept the commandments, and had done his due diligence to God. Jesus did not dispute this, but pointed out that the man could do better by his fellowman.
Peter tried to diminish his obligation to his fellowman when he asked Jesus whether seven times was not enough to forgive one that had wronged him. Jesus immediately suggested that Peter try 490 times instead.
A lawyer asked Jesus what was necessary to obtain eternal life. Jesus said to love God and love one’s neighbor. The lawyer did not dispute the first half, but trying “to justify himself,” asked for clarification as to what qualified another as his neighbor. Jesus gave the parable of the Good Samaritan, by which he meant that all others are our neighbor.
So which side are we on when we condemn our fellowman? Whose war are we championing? What way would Jesus have you treat your brother or sister, even one that is flawed? The same way that he has treated you.
Luke 11:17- But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth.
John 13:35- By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

Respect in Our Differences- John 4:9-10, 19-21, 23

Then saith the woman of Samaria unto him, How is it that thou, being a Jew, askest drink of me, which am a woman of Samaria? for the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans.
Jesus answered and said unto her, If thou knewest the gift of God, and who it is that saith to thee, Give me to drink; thou wouldest have asked of him, and he would have given thee living water.
The woman saith unto him, Sir, I perceive that thou art a prophet.
Our fathers worshipped in this mountain; and ye say, that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.
Jesus saith unto her, Woman, believe me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father.
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.

COMMENTARY

For the Jews have no dealings with the Samaritans
The Father seeketh such to worship him

When Jesus attempted to travel through Samaria, they denied him entrance into their village. His disciples then asked him if they should call down fire to destroy that nation and he rebuked them for such a suggestion (Luke 9:51-56).
In the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman, we see that Jesus still retains thoughtful concern for these children, and looks forward to a day that the boundaries between them can be broken. He makes clear that the Father still seeks for people like her to share in the riches of heaven.
I am convinced that the highest courts of heaven will be populated by Christians and Jews and Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists, and all other manner of sincere seekers for truth. If we try our best, but are somewhat misaligned, our trying is not going to be discounted because of it. Let us never forget, that in the end, “the LORD looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

Respect in Our Differences- John 13:35, Romans 12:5, Mark 9:33-35

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.

So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.

And he came to Capernaum: and being in the house he asked them, What was it that ye disputed among yourselves by the way?
But they held their peace: for by the way they had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest.
And he sat down, and called the twelve, and saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all, and servant of all.

COMMENTARY

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another
So we, being many, are one body in Christ
I believe Christians sometimes believe that the body of Christ refers to their particular sect only, and not to any of the others. But why can it not be referring to all Christians?
Christ, himself, gave the definition for being one of his followers, and he did not say it was by being only a Catholic, or only a Lutheran, or only a Mormon. He said “men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” So if I have love for a Methodist and a Jehovah’s Witness, then what am I? A disciple of Christ. And if a Protestant and a Presbyterian have love for me, then what are they? Disciples of Christ. And if we do not have love for one another, then what are we? Not disciples.

They had disputed among themselves, who should be the greatest
And he saith unto them, If any man desire to be first, the same shall be last of all
I believe many Christians also have a mistaken fantasy that when Christ comes again he will point to their church and say “This. This was the right one, and all the rest of you are wrong.” In essence, we, like the disciples of old, are hoping that Jesus will choose us as the greatest above all others. But Jesus cautions us that desires to be the greatest debase us to the lowest.
Let us suppose that your own religion teaches the absolute truth and mine is somewhat amiss. Yes, when Jesus comes He would need to then correct all of the misconceptions that I hold. But I am certain that he would not do this by wagging his finger and telling me just how wrong I am. Rather he would accept that I am striving for rightness, and lovingly show me how to be even more so.
It would be like a servant washing the feet of the disciples that still have a little dirt on them.

Respect in Our Differences- Luke 11:17

But he, knowing their thoughts, said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and a house divided against a house falleth

COMMENTARY

A house divided against a house falleth
Yesterday I told about a positive experience I had when another Christian and I shared our different beliefs, but it would be dishonest of me to pretend that all of my interactions with other Christians have been so positive. During my mission I would meet missionaries from other sects, who sometimes would approach me and challenge my beliefs. I would answer them defensively, and then I would try to point out flaws in their own beliefs. I was never gracious enough to just let the challenge go.
While these moment left me flushed with an intoxicating adrenaline, they absolutely did not make me feel closer to my Savior. I did not feel that I had nobly defended the truth against an enemy, I felt that I had dirtied myself in a petty squabble. A squabble with one who ought to be my friend.
It was infighting among the ranks of fellow Christians, and our line was weaker against the assaults of Satan because of it. The more we fight with each other, the more we do the adversary’s work for him. Are we then truly Christian? As Christ, himself, warned: a house divided against itself cannot stand.

Respect in Our Differences- Luke 9:49-50

And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name; and we forbad him, because he followeth not with us.
And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.

COMMENTARY

And John answered and said, Master, we saw one casting out devils in thy name
And Jesus said unto him, Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us
During my mission I met a Christian of another sect. We had a brief conversation, and each of us expressed a curiosity to know how the other had come to follow the sect that they belonged to. We each shared our conversion experience, how we had felt God manifest to us the right path to follow. We congratulated one another on their discovery, and parted amicably.
And in the end, both of us still believed in the rightness of our own path. It is extremely easy for us to jump to the conclusion “if God told me to follow this path, then no other path can truly be following Him.” This line of thought leads one to judge others as foolish or deceived by evil.
For a moment, let us suppose that your particular niche of faith, whatever it might be, is the single, penultimate truth that God wishes for all of us to follow. Under this scenario, then yes, the variations in my belief would be detrimental, and they would be limiting me from my full potential. And yes, you would be well-justified in inviting me to a higher truth.
But that would not be the same as saying that I am against you. Because in the end, I am still trying to cast out devils. I am fighting against the forces of violence, lust, greed, and selfishness. And I am doing this in the name of Jesus Christ. I attest that he is the only one with power to defeat these evils and reclaim our souls.
Therefore, even if you think I am somewhat misaligned, Jesus has affirmed that I am misaligned in his general direction. He has recognized that I am for him. And even if I think you are a little misaligned, I do also appreciate that you are for him, too.

Respect in Our Differences- Personal Example

I disagree with you, but that’s okay. Is this something that we can respectfully look one another in the eye and say? So often in this world to disagree with another is to hate them. To hold a different opinion is a an irredeemable crime, it makes one a mortal enemy.

Absolutely I feel that we should evangelize for what we believe in, and should try to share what truths we have gained with those that are receptive to them. But some people will not wish to share in them, and the test is whether we can accept that graciously.

Without a doubt, each of us know people who we feel are unequivocally in the wrong. Or at the very least, are more wrong than us! Can we maintain that they are wrong, but also still a worthy person?

I have a friend who is an atheist. We spoke about religion a few times, and I am pleased to say it was always respectful from both sides. Each of us was genuinely curious to just understand one another better without judgment. In the end, my friend still thinks that I am naïve, and I think that he is cynical. We therefore see fundamental flaws in one another. I think that he is wrong, he thinks that I am wrong… And yet we still think that one another is a good friend.

Would it be nice if my friend became a believer? Of course. I honestly feel it would be a source of great joy to him. But for now it is not necessary for him to agree with me, only that he and I do the disagreeing respectfully.