Love Thy Neighbour
Fraternal love (Prehispanic sculpture from 250 to 900 AD, of Huastec origin). Museum of Anthropology in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico
Where Science Meets Religion by Trent Dee Stephens, PhD, for the Come Follow Me lesson August 14-20: Romans 7-16.
There isn’t much science in this week’s message, just some good advice from the Apostle Paul. He stated in Romans 16:17-18, “Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.”
So what is “the doctrine which ye have learned?” We can learn of that doctrine from the Savior himself. In Matthew 22:37-39, “Jesus said…Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.”
As I pointed out last week, in his letter to the Galatians (5:19-21), Paul spelled out the behaviors that go against the doctrine of Christ, “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revillings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” Current media sources portray numerous cases of hatred, wrath, strife, and revillings. Apparently some people even bring hatred, wrath, strife, and revillings into the Church.
Jesus said Matthew 5:4 “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…”
Our beloved prophet, President Russell M. Nelson, gave a powerful talk, just last April in General Conference entitled, “Peacemakers Needed.” In that talk he pointed out that many of us think the talk was intended for someone else, but we need to examine our own hearts. He said that, “Civility and decency seem to have disappeared during this era of polarization and passionate disagreements… I am greatly concerned that so many people seem to believe that it is completely acceptable to condemn, malign, and vilify anyone who does not agree with them… Regrettably, we sometimes see contentious behavior even within our own ranks.”
He stated, “My dear brothers and sisters, this should not be. As disciples of Jesus Christ, we are to be examples of how to interact with others—especially when we have differences of opinion. One of the easiest ways to identify a true follower of Jesus Christ is how compassionately that person treats other people…The Savior’s message is clear: His true disciples build, lift, encourage, persuade, and inspire—no matter how difficult the situation. True disciples of Jesus Christ are peacemakers…If a friend on social media has strong political or social views that violate everything you believe in, an angry, cutting retort by you will not help. Building bridges of understanding will require much more of you, but that is exactly what your friend needs…Charity is the antidote to contention. Charity is the spiritual gift that helps us to cast off the natural man, who is selfish, defensive, prideful, and jealous. Charity is the principal characteristic of a true follower of Jesus Christ. Charity defines a peacemaker.”
It is very clear from President Nelson’s talk that we need to heed Paul’s council more today than ever, “…mark them which cause divisions and offences…and avoid them…” especially if we cannot find anything good to say to them. As Thumper said, “If you can't say something nice, don't say nothing at all.”
Trent Dee Stephens, PhD