The Captive Heart- Isaiah 53:6

All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.

COMMENTARY

All we like sheep have gone astray
Arguably the wounds that cut us most deeply are the ones we inflict upon ourselves. We might respond to them with intense shame, believing ourselves to be irredeemably broken and fundamentally flawed, or else we might become defensive, responding with anger at any suggestion that we did something wrong.
In either case, we have an intense feeling that it is not okay that we are imperfect. Which, in a world without grace, I suppose would be true. In a world without grace, admitting that you had done something wrong, confessing your faults, and exposing your weakness could only result in condemnation without forgiveness. It would be a horrifying prospect. Thus it is little wonder that we feel like we have to put on a perfect face, even as we know that none of us are.

And the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all
But, thankfully, there is grace, there is forgiveness, and there is a way to be loved even after we have done something wrong. All the horror of unremitting condemnation was faced for us by another. It was laid on the back of our brother. It is a sobering fact, but also the only way that this story could have a happy ending.
Because of our mortal frailty we have all gone astray, but because of His divine consistence we may all regather. We can be flawed, but live with the peace as if we had been perfect. We can learn from our mistakes, yet live as with the wisdom of having always known right. We can surrender all the bad, and preserve all of the good.

The Captive Heart- John 5:2-9

Now there is at Jerusalem by the sheep market a pool, which is called in the Hebrew tongue Bethesda, having five porches.
In these lay a great multitude of impotent folk, of blind, halt, withered, waiting for the moving of the water.
For an angel went down at a certain season into the pool, and troubled the water: whosoever then first after the troubling of the water stepped in was made whole of whatsoever disease he had.
And a certain man was there, which had an infirmity thirty and eight years.
When Jesus saw him lie, and knew that he had been now a long time in that case, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
The impotent man answered him, Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool: but while I am coming, another steppeth down before me.
Jesus saith unto him, Rise, take up thy bed, and walk.
And immediately the man was made whole, and took up his bed, and walked: and on the same day was the sabbath.

COMMENTARY

Sir, I have no man, when the water is troubled, to put me into the pool
Previously I examined our reluctance to admit when we are wounded or broken. But then, even when we are willing to admit as much, we still might struggle to know what to do with that fact. Once we know that we have a problem we tend to look for solutions, but if the correct solution is not immediately evident, we usually end up chasing fruitless remedies, or trying to medicate the pain with addiction and disconnection.
Such was the man at the pool of Bethesda, forever waiting for a healing that he was incapable of receiving. It was the place to go, the thing to do, the world’s solution for his problem. But it just wasn’t going to work for him.

When Jesus saw him lie, he saith unto him, Wilt thou be made whole?
The man could not find his healing, because he could not meet the terms under which it was doled out. He was physically incapable of finding success. I have felt the same when I have said to myself I need to be healed by God, but I have to earn it first by becoming perfect. This is a physical impossibility, and if I insist on this path, I will only ensure that I am never healed.
Jesus comes with another offer, comes with terms that each of us can meet. It is simple: “wilt thou be made whole?” The simplicity of the way often makes us skeptical. True healing and change cannot come so freely we think. And normally, no, true healing isn’t and can’t be so free in our fallen world. That is why we call it a miracle.

The Captive Heart- Mark 2:17

When Jesus heard it, he saith unto them, They that are whole have no need of the physician, but they that are sick: I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.

COMMENTARY

They that are whole have no need of the physician
When Jesus told Peter “if I wash thee not, thou hast no part with me” (John 13:8), he was repeating a message that he had already shared before. Those who are whole do not need the doctor, those that are perfect do not require repentance, those that are clean do not need to be washed. But if you are not broken, or if you are not dirty, or if you are not sick…then you have nothing to do with Jesus, for that is who he came for.
I have recognized in myself the desire to not be a bother to my Savior. I yearn to be totally perfect so that he doesn’t have to be burdened by the weight of my soul. I think it is a good thing he suffered and died for the world…but I don’t want the guilt of knowing that he suffered and died for me.
And so I say to him the same thing that we say to each other any time our emotional wounds come up. “I’m fine, I’m totally fine. I’ve had some rough stuff in the past, but,” shrug “it weren’t nothing.” We are too afraid to admit that we have been hurt and hurt deeply. Afraid to show that we are broken. Afraid to admit that we are not okay.
We’re fine, we’re totally fine. And so long as that is our claim, Jesus sighs, smiles sadly, and says “thou hast no part with me.”

Evolving Your Beliefs- Summary

At the outset I was concerned that this study might be taken the wrong way. I never meant to suggest that we need to “evolve our beliefs” in the sense of calling certain commandments outmoded. I never meant to suggest that we try to blur the lines or call truth relative. I absolutely maintain that there is still right and wrong, that there is still good and evil, and that God has a specific path that we need to follow.

And that’s what this study was really meant to be about: learning God’s way better, and how we block our progress when we assume that we already know it perfectly. Perhaps the most important prerequisite to being teachable, is admitting that there are things one still needs to learn.

In this study I’ve tried to show how the need for rebirth is universal, and how it is no heresy to change one’s mind on spiritual matters, when one is sincerely deepening their faith. Let’s review a few of the key points that came up along the way.

We Are All Still Learning

We examined the stories of Nicodemus and Jonah, two men that were presumably very spiritual and very sincere seekers of the truth. Yet both of them were yet lacking. If they hadn’t been, these scriptural passages wouldn’t even exist!
Jonah’s case is particularly interesting, because he has the audacity to argue with God about what is right! It seems ridiculously arrogant, to reprimand the author of rightness for not doing the right thing…yet I think more of us do this than we realize. I’ve woken up to the realization that I was so arrogant myself.
None of us thinks that we’re perfect, but we do tend to think that we know perfectly. We feel that we aren’t wrong in our convictions, only that we don’t follow through on them. While yes, we probably do know better than we behave, perhaps we should also consider that if we actually did know better, our behavior would follow suit.
John 3:3- Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God
Jonah 3:10, 4:1And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not. But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.

We Have Emotional Blockers to Our Growth

Which is worse, to admit that one was wrong, or to remain being wrong? Obviously the latter, yet I think all of us can readily recall moments where we refused to admit that we were in error, even though in our heart of hears we knew that we were.
And each of us probably knows what the root cause of our stubbornness is pride, pure and simple. The solution is also simple: to let go of that pride.
Or perhaps I should say, the solution is simple to write, not necessarily to do! Indeed, I wish to maintain utmost respect for just how difficult an undertaking it is to admit that one was wrong.
When we recognize this wall of pride in another person, or even in our own selves, we should be very sensitive about it. There could very well be a wound that is tucked behind that wall. The mind often has a very good reason for not wanting to admit its faults. Perhaps one was made to feel great shame as a child, and a part of them is afraid that confessing an error will subject them to that horrible pain once more.
Yes, one still needs to let go of their pride, one still needs to let go of misconceptions to embrace higher truth, but let us be gentle as we invite the refiner’s fire.
Isaiah 1:25- And I will turn my hand upon thee, and purely purge away thy dross, and take away all thy tin.

Releasing Misconceptions is Not Letting Go of God

Many of us might be afraid to sin against the God of our childhood. We might feel that if we say we believed something incorrectly, than we are saying that all our beliefs were incorrect.
I think of the man who was blind from birth, whom Jesus sent to wash in the pool of Siloam and then received his sight. His entire perspective was literally changed in an instant! However when the Pharisees heard of it, and how the man maintained that it was Christ who had healed him, they cast him out of the synagogue. He was no longer welcome in the worship of his youth. Isn’t that what we’re afraid of as well?
It is a very understandable hesitation, but the answer to it is found in the rest of that blind man’s story.
John 9:35-38- Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of God?
He answered and said, Who is he, Lord, that I might believe on him?
And Jesus said unto him, Thou hast both seen him, and it is he that talketh with thee.
And he said, Lord, I believe. And he worshipped him.

Evolving Your Beliefs- Jonah 3:4-5, 10; 4:1

And Jonah began to enter into the city a day’s journey, and he cried, and said, Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown.
So the people of Nineveh believed God, and proclaimed a fast, and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them even to the least of them.
And God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God repented of the evil, that he had said that he would do unto them; and he did it not.
But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry.

COMMENTARY

But it displeased Jonah exceedingly, and he was very angry
The story of Jonah is very interesting. First God calls him to teach the people of Nineveh and he tries to run away. Then he repents of that folly and goes and proclaims death and destruction on the city. They repent and are spared, and he is furious that God is willing to forgive them.
Jonah clearly knows God, has intimate conversations with Him, and presumably wants to be a good disciple…but he keeps butting heads with God anyhow. He thinks that God’s policy should be one way, and is disappointed when it is otherwise. In this small story of his life, Jonah seems to be more devoted to his sense of what is right than God’s.
But we probably shouldn’t criticize him too harshly, because I think each of us disagrees with God on one point or another, even as we’re trying to follow Him. Some of us are worried that God is too lenient, afraid that He isn’t going to punish those who deserve it. Some of us are worried that God is too harsh, afraid that He won’t accept us with all of our indulgences.
When we make up our minds as to what the spiritual truths are supposed to be, we then become very touchy when someone suggests that we are wrong. Like Jonah, “it displeases us exceedingly, and we are very angry!”
I have personally experienced this a few times, and in hindsight I’ve always realized that my anger was not righteous indignation, I was lashing out because someone had touched a nerve. They had inadvertently touched on some festering emotional baggage. Of course, I did not want to admit that I was wounded, so I maintained all the more loudly that I was standing for the right. But of course, God sees through that whole facade, and tomorrow we’ll examine how He breaks it down.

Knit Our Hearts- Colossians 3:13, Doctrine and Covenants 64:9-10

Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.

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.
I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.

COMMENTARY

Even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye
Of you it is required to forgive all men
Thus far I have examined the need for companionship in our faith, and how two disciples improve one another when they are united in a cause. I have also discussed that when a brother or sister wrongs us we can lovingly invite them to make amends. That is the first of our obligations, and the second is to forgive.
But of course, doing either of these tasks is easier said than done, especially when we are still in pain. If it was an accidental hurt followed by an immediate apology, those can often be dismissed right away. But an intentional wounding, or one brought about by gross negligence? And one where our so-called “brother” or “sister” denies having done any wrong?
In those situations we feel inseparable from our righteous indignation. Thus it doesn’t feel like we are being asked to “let go” of our anger, it feels like we would have to tear it right out of our core.
I have felt that way myself. Sometimes I still feel it. From my experience I believe that forgiveness is a muscle that can be exercised, a skill that can be developed. Thus I can acknowledge that “I am bad at forgiving…. But I can get better at it.” To that end I have established for myself a daily ritual of letting go of all the offenses I have felt. I hope to cultivate a spirit of forgiving, one that can let go of the bigger things as well.