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.

Knit Our Hearts- Amos 3:3, Genesis 2:24

Can two walk together, except they be agreed?

Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.

COMMENTARY

Can two walk together, except they be agreed?
I’ve already mentioned that an essential element to building a companionship is sharing a cause. When two agree on a principle, then they can agree on an action, then they can walk together. Not only do they achieve the fruit of their labor, they also sow a relationship with each other in the process.
Sometimes finding that shared principle takes some work, but I am convinced every two individuals can find one. We all come from the same divine source, after all, we are more alike than different.
Perhaps one brother could be your companion in community service, while another sister could be your companion in wholesome creation, and yet a third could be the one you are accountable to in your repentance.
Not any one person is meant to be all things to us, but all are meant to be something.

Therefore shall a man…cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh
I would be remiss to do a study on mortal companionships and not make note of its most significant form: the marriage covenant between husband and wife.
In every other relationship we can have brotherhood, sisterhood, and friendship. We can unite our strengths, and we can mutually improve one another. And of course, husband and wife should also have this same standard of brotherhood and sisterhood, and also of being friends.
But to that base marriage adds something more. It is the union of the two distinct halves of humanity. One male, the other female, each essential to creating the one. Masculinity perfecting the feminine, and femininity perfecting the masculine. The two find completion in one another and discover God within their oneness. A union so consummate that God has reserved to it the very creation of life.

Knit Our Hearts- Genesis 2:18, Genesis 11:6

And the Lord God said, It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him.

And the Lord said, Behold, the people is one, and they have all one language; and this they begin to do: and now nothing will be restrained from them, which they have imagined to do.

COMMENTARY

The people is one…and now nothing will be restrained from them
If one seeks evidence that there is great power in united individuals, that person need look no further than God’s own perspective of such unions. From verses like this it is clear that God respects the awesome potential of humans coupled together. In this moment God is speaking of a time when the people had a perfect understanding of each other, and of them He said that they had the power to accomplish whatever they imagined.
Think of how different that message is from the one of the world. Consider heroes like James Bond, Indiana Jones, or Superman. These are individuals who are truly individual, men who need no one but themselves to win the day. They are tantalizing fantasies, but they are fantasies. Yes, relationships are complicated and sometimes it seems that life would simpler if we could just stand by ourselves. But the reality baked into our humanity is that “it is not good for man to be alone.”

It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him an help meet for him
In my last study I explored the idea of a united community, something that God is clearly in favor of. However a community is not the social unit that He created in the beginning. First He just put two together, and for then that was enough. For this study I will be looking at these more intimate ties: those of companionship, soul mates, bosom friends, and kindred spirits.

Knit Our Hearts- Question

I have found a lot of personal value in these last couple studies. I guess I needed some reminders of service and brotherly love. I can certainly say from my own heart that the soul truly does crave unity, and we are meant to be bound together.

But with all of that, I have one question remaining. Having a desire to be united to all mankind is good and well, but to build bridges you need to work with people on an individual basis, not just as some nebulous “all mankind.” And working with individuals can be messy. It is a very easy temptation to say “well I don’t want a connection with you, I’ll wait for someone better.”

I think we are meant to be grateful for the relationships that come easily and naturally, but to persevere for the relationships that don’t. With this next study I’d like to take a smaller scope and find answers to questions like how do I clear the barriers between me and someone else? How do I forgive past wrongs? What actions build unity? How do people start working for some united goal? How do two strangers become friends?

I’m excited to do this research, and hope it will be as valuable for you as I expect it to be for me. In the meanwhile I would love to hear about your own experiences building bridges with others. What ways have you found to set aside differences? What miracles have you seen when you decided to try?

The Family of God- 3 Nephi 11: 29-32, John 17:21-23

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.
Behold, verily, verily, I say unto you, I will declare unto you my doctrine.
And this is my doctrine, and it is the doctrine which the Father hath given unto me; and I bear record of the Father, and the Father beareth record of me, and the Holy Ghost beareth record of the Father and me; and I bear record that the Father commandeth all men, everywhere, to repent and believe in me.

That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

COMMENTARY

That they may be made perfect in one
All good principles are in harmony with one another. Love, kindness, peace, wisdom, patience, understanding, justice, mercy…all of these are able to coexist in full measure and never undo one another. They are a complementary set.
To that unity we can add God. God is a perfect being in harmony with all that is good. Also to that unity we can Jesus Christ. Christ is a perfected being that is in perfect harmony with his Father, and so he must also be in perfect harmony with all that is good. We are taught that the Holy Spirit is united in this perfect harmony as well.

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
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us
Having acknowledged this unity between God, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit, and all good principles; now let us ask what is the purpose of the gospel we have received of them? What is its objective? What is the end result that it attains? Well, we don’t have to guess, because the author of that gospel has already told us for what purpose it was given.
And that purpose is so that the unity between those perfect beings and forces can be ours as well. Our supreme destiny is to come in perfect harmony with God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and every good principle. The gospel is the process by which this is accomplished.
Not only do we come into harmony with those perfections, but by extension we also come into harmony with every other brother and sister that strives for this same unity as well. We will have total harmony with saints, angels, the prophets, and nature after it has been perfected. By all of us converging on one perfect goal, we will converge with one another as well. And yes, we will all still be our own individuals, but we will be individuals in harmony.

The Family of God- Colossians 3:13-15, Ephesians 4:3

Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness.
And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful.

Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

COMMENTARY

Put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body
Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace

From these verses we learn that charity is one of the bonds of unity, and twice we are told that the peace of God also calls us to one body. I wondered why, and after reading what others have written about these verses and mulling it over, I think I have at least a partial answer.
Being at peace does not necessarily mean that people are united, but being in conflict does necessarily mean that they are not. Therefore, peace is a prerequisite to unity because it establishes the climate where unity can be cultivated.
All this being said, I do believe that there is such a thing as “friendly disagreement,” and I don’t think we have to surrender our beliefs as a way to avoid contradicting others’ philosophies. But perhaps we can recognize that for all our differences, we still have more things in common. To be able to do that, to focus on the good in others and not the bad, is to have charity. Thus charity is essential for us to have peace, even with our differences.

And be ye thankful
Charity and peace are pleasant things, and we are meant to feel pleasure when we are in their presence. We can be very thankful in the moments that we enjoy them. But also we should remember that these blessings are given to us for for a reason. Yes, they make us feel soft and nice, but they are also tools, meant to be used to make the world a better place.

The Family of God- Question

The study I have just concluded, one based on the need to serve to one another, suggested a new topic to me. In that research it seemed evident that we are designed to be social. Our hearts yearn for a sense of community, to regard one another as brothers and sisters, and to support each other on a shared adventure.

The scriptures definitely support this idea of us all being members of one family under God, and the way of the hermit is not what our nature was designed for. Given that, I would like to study what the ties that bind us together are, how they are strengthened, and what blessings can only be obtained as a group.

Obviously some of us are supremely lonely. And sometimes we are by necessity, such as when our belief in God puts us at opposition to those around us. But even then we still believe in communion with God and angels, a group of believers that extends beyond the veil to support us. I’d like to explore this aspect of the gospel as well.

In the meantime, I’d be curious to hear what community of discipleship you’ve been able to build up around you. Aside from local church groups, how do you setup a network of faith to rely on? What ways have those communities lifted you to more than you could have ever accomplished on your own?

How Do We Pray for Others- Summary

I really was not sure what I would find when I decided to do a study on how to pray for others. Even when I selected John 17 for my research, I wasn’t sure what I would be able to glean for it. I have honestly been amazed at the wealth of messages that are in this short chapter, though, and the promise of “ask and ye shall receive” has been abundantly filled! In the Great Intercessory Prayer I feel that Jesus lays out a perfect template for how to petition for our brothers and sisters. Let’s do a review of what we learned.

Get Yourself Connected First

First and foremost you need to consider your own connection to God. You need to know His goodness before you can pray for it in others. If we try to pray for the love of God to come into other’s lives and we have not experienced that love ourselves, then we are just praying a “wish” instead of praying in “faith.”
19- And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified.
23- … that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.

Secondly you need to be connected to those you pray for. Even if these are strangers you are praying for, you can have your heart drawn out in common humanity for your fellow brothers and sisters. Jesus knew those he prayed for clear through to their very souls. He knows their goodness, and he knows their failings. He truly was their shepherd.
8- For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.
12- While I was with them in the world, I kept them in thy name: those that thou gavest me I have kept, and none of them is lost, but the son of perdition;

Make this a partnership

We’re not meant to treat God like a genie and ask Him to do everything for us. Neither are we meant to treat God like a taskmaster and who demands us to do everything on our own. One of the messages that comes through clearest to me in Jesus’s prayer is the relationship he and God have as fellow workers in the same field.
8- For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them.
22- And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them;

ask for the universals

If you’re unsure of what to specifically ask for those you pray for, pray for what you know. You know that everyone needs God’s love in their lives. You know that everyone needs to feel the reality of being God’s own child. You know that everyone is their best when they see themselves the way Christ sees them. You know everyone needs forgiveness and Grace. Jesus prays for universal goodness that all of us can echo in our own prayers.
15- I pray not that thou shouldest take them out of the world, but that thou shouldest keep them from the evil.
17- Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth

Ask for unity

And recognize that your desires for others all come back to the need for you and those you pray for to come to a common ground: God’s common ground. If there is a rift between you, each of you coming to God will close that gap. If there is a hurt or a wound, God’s presence will heal that. If there is a desire to serve and love, God’s guidance will show your hands the work to do.
21 That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
23 I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
26 And I have declared unto them thy name, and will declare it: that the love wherewith thou hast loved me may be in them, and I in them.