Now that Christmas has passed and we look forward to the new year, I am going through my usual list of personal deficiencies to try to establish my New Year’s resolutions for the coming year. The scripture I’ve attached below is the best way I can describe my biggest challenge in life.
Ye have heard that it hath been said; Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and hate thine enemy.
But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;
That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.
For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? Do not even the publicans the same?
And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? Do not even the publicans so?
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
Matthew 5: 43-48
And maybe it’s my personal interpretation of that scripture. For me this scripture does not simply say “Love your enemies” – a difficult enough challenge by itself – but, more importantly, it says “forgive those who have offended you.” At the end of the scripture the Lord commands us to “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” I believe that he is saying if we can conquer this one aspect in our lives we will be closer to perfection, perhaps closer than conquering any other aspect.
Almost twenty years ago I moved with my family to the east coast. We left the “safe confines” of the Salt Lake Valley, where we had lived for the previous 11 years and we left most of our family just 100 miles north in southern Idaho where my wife and I had grown up. Just after we arrived here in the east I remember a lesson in Elder’s Quorum class where we discussed the fast pace life that surrounded us and many of us, myself included, reminisced about the simpler times when we were first married and living elsewhere. After several of these like-minded comments, and immediately following my comment, one of the class members who was a convert and who grew up in Baltimore said something like, “All you guys who miss your small Mormon towns should go back there if you miss it so much. I’m a city slicker and I like it here.” I was incensed by what he said. I felt personally attacked and offended. I really disliked (I won’t say hated) that fellow for several weeks. Then we started a family Christmas tradition where we would select a family who we would serve as Secret Santa during the 12 days prior to Christmas. We would leave small gifts or baked goods at their door each night and then on Christmas Eve we would leave a larger gift basket. All this was done in anonymity. I remembered hearing someone once say that if you didn’t like someone you should do something nice for them. So we chose (I chose) this man’s family for the Secret Santa.
Now I’m not going to claim that it was that effort that changed my perspective but I will tell you that the man in question is one of my best friends in the church today. Oh yes, he’s still opinionated and less than sensitive in his conversation but I have grown to love and appreciate his honesty.
But the fact is forgiving others is still my biggest challenge in life. Yesterday (Christmas Day) I spoke to one of my sons who, along with his wife and children, is visiting his grandparents and other extended family in the West for the holidays. I asked him how the trip was going and he said he’s been able to relax and enjoy it. He identified one reason for the laid back atmosphere was that the internet is not readily available to him there. The relatives have it but it doesn’t sit in the living room like it does at his house (and mine). I acknowledged that the internet and blogging can be the source of much contention in our lives and I have wondered whether I do too much of it. I passionately dislike contention in my life but I’m afraid that I am the source of much of the contention that I experience. Should I give up blogging? Should I give up my interest in politics? How can I learn to better forgive others and follow the Lord’s commandments?
I have counseled with my sons in the past telling them that if they find themselves being easily offended they should stop and consider their relationship with Jesus Christ – having a strong personal relationship with the Lord usually means that you won’t be easily offended – in my opinion. I know I should listen to my own advice.
How do you deal with this issue in your life? Have you conquered the need to hold a grudge?