Monday, August 04, 2014

8 Days to 40: Lesson #3

Lesson #3

In the book of Matthew in the New Testament, there is the account of the savior talking with his apostles and Jesus tells them how they will scatter. Peter, responds defensively and Jesus prophesies of what is to come:

33 Peter answered and said unto him, Though all men shall be offended because of thee, yet will I never be offended.

34 Jesus said unto him, Verily I say unto thee, That this night, before the cock crow, thou shalt deny me thrice. - Matthew 26: 33-34

We know from the story later that Peter indeed does deny knowing Christ 3 times that night and then wept bitterly when he recognized what he had done.I think of this scripture when I think back on an important lesson I learned one Sunday while at BYU.

I was at BYU for 5 years as an undergraduate. Then I took 2 years off before heading back for graduate school. By the time I went back to school, I was 25, single, and had sat through a lot of Sundays in single’s wards.  By this time, I thought much of my own wisdom and understanding of the Gospel – and I didn’t really notice what negative effect my pride had created in me. Until this one Sunday…

It was a normal fast Sunday like every 1st Sunday of the month. The ward I was in was full of young college students – girls and guys who were 19-22 years old. They were all going through the same kind of stages in life and a lot of the same things were heard on Sunday when they would bear their testimonies. I had heard it all a thousand  times before.  I was sitting in the audience finding myself bit annoyed with the spiritual immaturity and cliché nature of what was being said. I found fault with just about everyone. It went a little like this in my head:

Person #1: “hi, for those of you who don’t know me, my name is...”
Me:  “Duh, of course it’s for those who don’t know you…the rest of us know you, so don’t need to  know your name.”
Person #2:  A guy wearing a dark blue shirt. (heaven forbid it’s not a white shirt)
Me: Why does this guy think that style is more important than showing respect? Does he wear a colored shirt because he wants to show he has his “agency” or something?
Person #3:  Bearing ‘testimony’ says “grateful” and “thankful” about 50 times without bearing actual testimony of anything.
Me: “Great another thankimony” Snooze….
Person #4: Person bears testimony by re-telling a VERY long story with no apparent point…
Me: “Does this person not have any sense of time?” “Wow, when is there going to be a point?”

Ok, so yes, these are all things I thought. Embarrassing to admit it, but that is where I was at the time. The worst part? I thought I was justified and right in what I thought. I mean, these people were simply not getting the point of the Gospel and were simply ruining a great opportunity to truly testify and share something awesome. They were offending the Gospel!

There is a lot of irony in that, right?!

Anyway, by the time the third hour came and we went into Priesthood, I was checked out to a large degree, counting the time when I could get away from all these people who just weren’t measuring up.

The lesson in priesthood that day was on not being offended. It was focused on how sometimes because testimonies aren’t strong, even a simple offense causes people to leave the Church. We discussed how we can avoid being so affected by having a strong testimony rooted in the Gospel and not in the actions of others.

As I sat there, a verse of scripture came to mind and the Spirit washed over me. The scripture was Matthew 7:1-5:
 1 Judge not, that ye be not judged.
 2 For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.
 3 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
 4 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
 5 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.

Suddenly, I felt a great shame and bitterness of spirit. The Spirit showed my mind how my thoughts that day had been a betrayal of Christ and what it is supposed to mean to be his disciple. I felt a small part of what Peter must have felt and it was heart-breaking. Of all at Church that day, I had made the greatest offense and been the most offended.

What I realized was that while I was supposed to be the strong one in the Church, here I had been sitting in my seat being offended by others who were not living up to my standards.I was denying those people love and understanding and compassion because they didn’t say or act like I thought a true and strong disciple would act. It was so wrong of me and I felt ashamed.

Ever since that day, when I sit in meetings and listen to others, I have tried hard to try and find the love Christ would have for them and see and hear them as He would. It is hard at times, but that experience many years ago now, comes quickly back to me. That bitterness and shame I felt pricks at my heart and reminds me not to find offense. It softens my spirit and I will ever be grateful for that.

We are a Church and a world of imperfect people. I should celebrate each Sunday with each person who shows up, no matter what. That they keep coming and trying should be enough. And when they act contrary to what I find appropriate and right, I stop and remember Christ. 

If I deny my brothers and sisters at Church, the love Christ would give them, then I am indeed denying him – because I am what Christ has to work with. He needs me to be his arms and eyes and ears. He needs me to hear and see his children as He does. He needs me to be His mercy extended and his love given.

I am grateful for this hard lesson and the blessing it has been in my life. It has made my Sundays and life much better. When I find myself criticizing, I close my eyes, say a prayer of repentance, and ask God to give me His eyes until I can find a way to pull the mote out of mine.
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