Monday, April 11, 2011

The Pure Love of Christ


Yesterday I taught a lesson for Relief Society on charity, and with Easter finally in sight, I wanted to share some of my thoughts with you.

“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:12-13).

What a blessing it is to know that we can count ourselves among the Savior’s friends. And we are not alone. Every person who ever has or ever will live upon this earth can count the Savior as a friend. Thinking about that great truth, I couldn’t help asking myself how many can count me as friend. Am I equally available to all comers? Or does my charity have special rules and regulations attached to it? In short, how much of my charity is not charity at all but merely kind deeds, easily offered to the people I find enjoyable and/or deserving? Is my love and attention based upon my own need to give to the people I love, or is it focused on the needs of others (friends or strangers), who have need of me? These are interesting (perhaps unsettling) questions, but I think there is great benefit in asking them...eternal benefit, for us and for others.

It’s unlikely that we will be called upon to lay down our lives as Jesus did, but the opportunity is ours to lay down our hearts in loving and serving our brothers and sisters here on earth. Charity, the very essence of Christ, demands it.

We all know the story of the Good Samaritan. His path, unlike those of others in that scripture, was paved with charity.

“A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead. And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side. And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side. But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee. Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise” (Luke 10:30-37).

"Do thou likewise." This was the Lord’s counsel, and I want to increase my ability and willingness to act upon it. Every one of us can be Samaritans in other peoples’ lives, even (and especially) those with whom we have little in common...those who make us uncomfortable...those who are dirty and laying by the road.

What opportunities to be charitable have I missed recently? How can I and others become more like this Good Samaritan, who took no thought except to give help where help was needed? We can refuse to judge, resolve never to let fear stop us, and remind ourselves that schedules and other “things” are far less important than people. We can resist the temptation to rest on our laurels, telling ourselves “others will do it.” We can remind ourselves that the Savior did not pick and choose among potential recipients of His offerings.

I was inspired by an experience shared by a Japanese woman named Yuka on an inspirational website called helpothers.org. It occurred shortly after the earthquake and tsunami, when she and others had been waiting many hours for a train. She said, “I was waiting at the platform, so tired and exhausted. A homeless person came to us and gave us a cardboard to sit on. Even though we usually ignore them in our daily life, they were ready to serve us.”

This story went straight to my heart, because charity is harder to exercise when we’re in dire straits ourselves. It becomes all too easy to opt out, using our own suffering or deprivation as a ready and seemingly reasonable excuse. But remember the story of the widow’s mite? She gave when she had nothing, because she knew the secret: that the Lord will give back to us more than we could ever give. Perhaps it takes a humble heart to understand this concept...a heart like this homeless hero in Japan possessed.

Of course, charity is more than giving; it’s forgiving. I’ll always remember a woman whose son was killed in a car accident while she was away on vacation. Apparently, the boy in the driver’s seat that night had been reckless, speeding and showing off in front of his friends. As a result of his carelessness, her 17-year-old son was dead. Returning as quickly as a plane could take her, one of her first acts was to go to that boy’s home and take him in her arms. Naturally, he was devastated, and her words of forgiveness were like balm to his soul…and the souls of his grieving parents. As she left, she reminded him that he needed to enjoy his life to the very fullest now because he would be doing it for both of them (his friend and himself). She later learned that these words gave the young man a sense of purpose that helped bring him out of the depths of despair and depression that followed. He clung to the idea of living a good life for his friend. How many mothers would be so generous as to be there in those very first days, before that young man’s feelings of self-loathing could take hold and flourish? What a great example of charity she was and is.

Surely it is not ours to decide whether someone "really deserves" our charity or not. If we have taken care of our own family’s needs first, wouldn't the Lord have us help all the people placed by Him in our path? In this way, we will be more like our Father in Heaven, who causes rain to fall on the just and on the unjust alike.

“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).

True charity is soul deep. It is no respecter of persons. It is fueled by the Spirit of God in our hearts and minds. Charity sees the best and not the worst in people. It is color and class and circumstance blind. It views others as God views them and loves without reservation. Merely giving, in the absence of true empathy and compassion, is not charity.

I love the question President Eyring asked in a general conference talk recently: "Have we done any good in the world today? Have we helped anyone in need?" Charity isn’t a bother or a burden or a duty. It’s a formula for happiness…our own and others'. "What a prescription for contentment and inner peace it is to have inspired gratitude in another human being" (Eyring).

It occurs to me that charity should be marketed! After all, it’s the best anti-depressant ever. And it’s all free!! Maybe that’s why our prideful world doesn’t value it enough.

Charity, the pure love of Christ, brings us together. Self-centeredness leaves us alone. Will we walk the lonely path? Or will we come unto Christ and belong to and with Him? The choice, as always, is ours.


Charity is love, pure love...
a sacred gift from up above
that brightens every day we live,
empow’ring us to lift, forgive
and serve each other, come what may,
in Jesus Christ’s appointed way.

It enters hearts that open wide,
bidding the Savior’s light inside
to soothe and heal, to warm and bless
with goodness, peace, and happiness.
Feathered in hope and lofty things,
borne on the grace that giving brings…
charity is love, with wings.

I hope I can find the compassion to give my love wings...this Easter season and beyond.

20 comments:

karen said...

Oh, I loved this post! Charity is something I think about a lot, and that also confuses me a lot. I guess my question is when do you give generously and freely, and when do you hold back and let others do for themselves - as they must learn to do. I love the idea of being free with our compassion and love for others - not being afraid to give charity in it's purest and best form. Your post reminded me to be generous and loving to all, and above all, not to judge. Great way to start my day!

anitamombanita said...

I recently got to give a talk on charity. As I studied and prepared for it, the thing that kept coming up for me was the kind of charity we don't think about so much... the kind that allows us to look the other way when someone makes a mistake, to not judge or criticize them, to love them just the same. For me, that's the hardest. It's easy to dig into our pockets or our closets or our pantries and give of our belongings. It's much harder to give of our beings.

I love this subject and can (need to) think about it a lot.

The opposite of charity is insensitivity. None of us want to be thought of as insensitive.

Donna said...

Such a good lesson for anyone regardless of race or religion. You have a very inspirational, motivational lesson here for us all!

Stacy Crawford said...

As RS Pres, I often get reminded of charity with it being our motto and all. I love this principal. It is what I'm getting taught weekly in this calling. Thank you often reaching my soul in your posts. Hope to be good friend/blog friends someday.
Stacy

yaya said...

Thank you Sue, I didn't get to go to RS this past Sunday and now I feel as if I've had a wonderful lesson! I've often said that charity isn't something we do..it's something we are. Thanks for an inspiring post and one that I will try harder to do, show charity/love to others this week.

Jess said...

I don't get to go to R.S.- young women is great- but I'd have loved to hear this lesson (especially from you). Learning charity got me through a really rough patch in my life- and I have such a strong love for it, for finding ways to serve others and helping them to feel loved- no better way to get over one's self and problems than to help solve anothers.

Dina @ 4 Lettre Words said...

LOVE this post, Sue. We know so many people (many that consider themselves Christian) that really don't understand being charitable.

Giving is just something that you never regret, and I think that speaks volumes!

Dixie Mom said...

Oh gosh, you just gave me the boost I needed. I'm really struggling with this one right now. I'm so angry at my own circumstances that I can hardly see across the street to where really love and charity is needed.

I really wish I could sit in on one of your lessons. :)

Ames said...

Oh Sue, this was a very positive post. I cried when I read the story about the grieving mother. Forgiveness can be very powerful thing.

I also wanted to say that I truly believe with all my heart that the verse Matthew 5:43-48 helped me through my last five years of employment. It gave me strength to work for a tyrant. I prayed for my employer everyday and I believe God answered my prayers.

As for charity, I believe to give is to recieve. What makes that difficult at times is wondering if whether or not my donation to any organization benefits those truly in need or the organization itself. Therefore I also believe in giving in other ways such as inkind donations. They too are just as important as financial gifting.

I still work on the "not judging others" every day of my life. I am so darn human, I slip up a lot. I ask God to show me how to love others as he loves me, and believe he does.

Loved your post Sue!~Ames

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

I loved this post, Sue.

And I also loved reading the comments, as i always do.

Recently, I joined a mom's group at my church (a newer group). One of the things that really makes me like the group is despite the fact that they are all busy mothers, they actively seek charity work and they involve the children in helping (for example, packing lunches for a shelter). I am inspired by these women. And by your post--thank you. :)

Brian Miller said...

smiles. you are singing my song...one of my all time fav verse from the Book and a beauitufl verse from you as well...laying down our lives. means more than dying...in the giving...love to give...

Grandma Honey said...

Thank you Sue. That was a beautiful lesson you gave.

It is so hard to continual be nice and loving to someone who does not treat us with respect in return. I think it can become a real test of who we are and what we truly believe.

Cody & Brittany Hawkes said...

aunt sue- I love this, your poem is amazing as well :) hope you have a great week! you've given me a lot of inspiration and charity is definitely something that everyone of us needs to work on a little more :) take care!
p.s. I told meighan to add you to her blog- hopefully we can both keep up with posting because it's fun to stay in touch with family that's farther away- love ya!

Myrna Foster said...

Thanks for the beautiful message. I ask myself some of the same questions. It's so much easier for me to have charity for children than for adults, but I know very well that I have my own faults.

I especially loved the story about the mother who comforted her son's friend. Thanks for sharing.

Stef said...

I think I will die trying to make charity a habit. It is such a huge, all encompassing virtue. Sigh. I do my best...that's all we can do, right?

Lisalulu said...

A wonderful lesson! being in Primary this was nice to hear.. and I love everyone's comments THEY help too. I'm printing this out to read again during my down time in Primary, makes me think I'm actually getting a lesson and 'learning' something! Thank you for sharing your talents.

Lisa Loo said...

Beautiful post!
I am the Primary pianist so I think I will do like Lisalulu is doing and I also feel very much like Stef.

So many things well said--thanx again!

Farmer's Wyfe said...

I'm catching up on your blog today, and really needed this. I get REALLY selfish of my time sometimes: it's the baby's naptime that I am fierce about. So when the neighbor wanted to chat, I had to put down my trowel and listen, and I really didn't WANT to, but I knew I should. Why is time the hardest thing to give? I plan to remember this next time and have my whole being listen instead of being antsy about "my time." Thanks for the reminder about what is really important. :)

Oleg said...

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Redspect said...

"If you haven't any charity in your heart you have the worst kind of heart trouble" to cure it help people, let's unite for one good cause, be a volunteer"save lives"!
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