Believing Christ

Stephen Marsh Mormon 20 Comments

Christ said:

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.”

D&C 64:9 (cf Matthew 6:15; 18:35; et al).

Do you have enough faith to believe Christ?

If you do, then what did he mean?

We are children. We are little children in a mortal life. The only things we truly accomplish in life are the changes we make in ourselves that we take with us into the next life. Of those changes, the core change is to open ourselves to the love of Christ so that we can let charity embrace us.

Others can do us meaningful harm only by our failure to love them, our failure to forgive them, our hardening our hearts away from God. Nothing else is lasting.

The bottom line is that nothing that happens to us in this life can do us any real harm except for those things we do to ourselves. Only the embrace of bitterness and the rejecting of the love of God so that we refuse to forgive, damages us or causes any pain that escapes the grave.

Comments

comments

Comments 20

  1. This is a dominant theme in the Sermon on the Mount and a dozen other places as well… and yet we do find it so difficult to deal with many of our brethren and sisters. I’m reminded of wards where I’ve lived that experienced strong divisions over years because of slights (real ones and perceived), yet allowing the Atonement to work would have been so simple.

    “…lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled.” –Heb. 12:15

    “Therefore, if ye shall come unto me, or shall desire to come unto me, or if thou bring thy gift to the altar, and there rememberest that thy brother hath aught against thee; Leave thou thy gift before the altar, and go thy way unto thy brother, and first be reconciled to thy brother, and then come and offer thy gift.” –Matt. 5:23-24

    Wonderful thoughts for a Friday, Stephen.

  2. Nice post, Stephen!

    I hereby nominate you Mormon Matters Devotional Writer.

    Neal,

    You bring up an interesting point I’ve heard others make about forgiving others. Does Christ’s atonement make it easier for us to reconcile with our brothers? Could Jews in a synagogue or Muslims in a mosque not reconcile with each other without understanding Christ’s atonement?

    I’m not trying to nitpick, I am honestly confused about the claim that “allowing the Atonement to work” is the necessary way to resolve interpersonal conflict. I thought the Atonement was about reconciling humans to God.

  3. I recently used this quote (D&C 64:9) in a discussion with a fundamentalist Protestant friend of mine (my Catholic girlfriend’s best friend). A Catholic and a Protestant walk into a bar, the Mormon ducks.

  4. John Nilsson,

    I am a big proponent of the concept of Christ as the great healer of all relationships. For example, would you enjoy heaven if your actions permanently scarred another person (abuse, bearing false witness, Count of Monte Cristo stuff) which contributed to their choosing a bad path in life? Though God has forgiven you through your repentance, would you be able to feel comfortable in God’s presence knowing that another soul suffers (in part at least) because of your actions? What I need the atonement to accomplish is not just forgiveness for my sins, but healing for those that I’ve hurt.

    It is my testimony that just as Christ has healed me and freed me from the pain and resentment of those that have wronged me, he will do the same for those I have wronged. Heaven is only heaven if all my relationships are at rights, and only Christ can approach the wronged and ask them to give him their pains.

  5. “The only things we truly accomplish in life are the changes we make in ourselves that we take with us into the next life.”

    Nice post Stephen. The only thing I would add to the above statement is working to help others as they strive to make changes in themselves.

    Thanks for the needed perspective.

  6. Kent,

    Thanks for the expansion. I guess my question is, does one need to be LDS to “allow the Atonement to work”?

  7. Post
    Author

    I guess my question is, does one need to be LDS to “allow the Atonement to work”?

    I should hope not.

    Though, eventually one must become a saint as a part of reaching the end of that road.

  8. Note that Jesus Christ never said “Forgive and forget” which has become the popular concept of forgiveness, which I think is misunderstood. The Online Etymology Dictionary says, “O.E. forgytan, from for- “passing by, letting go” (cf. forbear, forgo) + gietan “to grasp” (see get). A common Gmc. construction (cf. O.S. fargetan, Du. vergeten, Ger. vergessen “to forget”). The literal sense would be “to lose (one’s) grip on,…” Jesus did said that God “remembers no more” but I don’t see that standard applied to mortals.

    Forgiveness is a willing act of giving the offender (and the offended) permission for a new life, to put off and embrace the new. It is such a burden to some persons when they think they have forgiven and yet still remember. Some people are toxic and unhealthful to have in one’s life; I think it is naive to think that the higher consciousness Jesus was offering was for us to continue in communion with such offending persons, even as we give them, and ourselves, permission to move on through forgiveness. It seems to me that Jesus is telling us of the sin — the separation from God, from enlightenment, from our heavenly present and future — if we “damn” our offender and ourselves by remaining stuck in the quagmire of trespasses and their aftermath. The forgiveness of some offenses, in my opinion, still rightly can involve a schism and separation from the offender and offended. That can be part of starting a new path and putting the past behind.

  9. @John Nilsson:

    That is a different aspect of the Atonement than we normally hear discussed. I second what Kent stated on the topic. I don’t know that it’s treated in much detail in the scriptures or General Conferences (I can’t think of any examples) but it seems a logical and spiritually consistent judgment for me to make. I’ve expressed my thoughts on the subject a little bit recently at http://radiobeloved.wordpress.com/2008/04/28/that-ye-may-have-life/ and I feel that this reconciliation among ourselves is part of our approach to Zion.

  10. Kent said, “Though God has forgiven you through your repentance, would you be able to feel comfortable in God’s presence knowing that another soul suffers (in part at least) because of your actions? What I need the atonement to accomplish is not just forgiveness for my sins, but healing for those that I’ve hurt.”

    Powerful and heartrending thought. This theme is what I thought was so beautiful about the film Atonement. Mortal forgiveness cannot alter the courses of past history, only invite new history to be written. Part of the new history can still be non-reconciliation of negative life courses, outcomes and events. We cannot Atone our sins. Only He. And oh, what hope is ours that it is His power to be able to heal soul wounds where we see no physical evidence, where we see only death or barriers, and have no mortal assurance that wrongs have been righted.

  11. JfQ – didn’t see Atonement, but read it, and I am still thinking about that. It’s very troubling, in a good way, that what the main character does is so unforgiveable and undo-able, and yet she was young and the issues were beyond her comprehension (the root of many interpersonal wrongdoings alas).

    I, for one, think that forgiveness is the most critical unique teaching of Christianity. The change from eye for an eye in Law of Moses to forgiveness in the New Testament is pivotal and fundamental.

  12. hawkgrrl said, “I, for one, think that forgiveness is the most critical unique teaching of Christianity. The change from eye for an eye in Law of Moses to forgiveness in the New Testament is pivotal and fundamental.”

    I agree, yet I view “eye for an eye” with a different nuance than it is commonly juxtaposed against the New Testament. Rabbinical tradition is that “eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth” sets merciful limits to what justice can claim. In other words, penalty must balance and apportion to the crime; it cannot exceed its limits. I think this is a very sympathetic and insightful nuance. However, it is also tough to literally reconcile, in my mind, the various issues for which halachan (Levitical law) violation that death or stoning is a permissable punishment.

    Yet seeking to find emotional fellowship with this Jewish perspective on “eye for an eye” representing mercy and justice I also find pivotal and fundamental hope in the incarnation of Christ. I see it this way: Where our mortal laws and efforts to fairly and appropriately balance justice and mercy may even have its praiseworthy and necessary function, it is not a dependable process by which we can reconcile ourselves before God and achieve earthly enlightenment (even as divine as they may try to approach). This took the most Divine of mercy and gifting to invite us to look beyond our best and most righteous intentions to recognize our profound limitations to right all wrongs. When we do this He has saved us in this life and the next.

  13. After reading the case reports of abuse in The Mormon Alliance some years ago I was struck by how difficult it was for victims to be told they must forgive. Some were pressured by their ecclesiastical leaders and it seemed to only make things worse. It seems to me that being able to forgive is a much a gift of the Spirit as to be forgiven and it’s something that just takes as long as it takes.

  14. It is remarkable to me how little we follow Christ to the cross. When we are offended as a nation, we dont even follow the lex talionis. There is rarely any proportionality in our reaction. The casualties in Afghanistan serve as a quick example.

    I think that one of the most significant aspects of the atonement is Christ’s descent into the abyss of human misery, pain, abandonment, scapegoating, etc. And yet, he forgives. A lamb to the slaughter, no resistance. This is perhaps the grace so many talk about. The, he loved us while we were yet sinner. I feel as if Christ has already forgiven everything. The question is will we forgive ourselves, and others. Christ’s atonement seems to allow me both to forgive those who offend me and to be forgiven.

    Someone mentioned earlier the difference between Islam and Christianity. I think the fact that there is no cross, no defeat in Islam is the crucial distinguishing factor between faiths. A God that is not a victim, who is not killed, is not a God that inspires us to forgive and be forgiven.

    Rene Girard commented on this difference noting that Islam “lacks the essential thing in Christianity: the cross. Like Christianity, Islam rehabilitates the innocent victim, but it does this in a militant manner. The cross is the contrary, it is the end of the violent and archaic myths”

  15. Kent wrote, “I am a big proponent of the concept of Christ as the great healer of all relationships. For example, would you enjoy heaven if your actions permanently scarred another person (abuse, bearing false witness, Count of Monte Cristo stuff) which contributed to their choosing a bad path in life? Though God has forgiven you through your repentance, would you be able to feel comfortable in God’s presence knowing that another soul suffers (in part at least) because of your actions? What I need the atonement to accomplish is not just forgiveness for my sins, but healing for those that I’ve hurt.

    It is my testimony that just as Christ has healed me and freed me from the pain and resentment of those that have wronged me, he will do the same for those I have wronged. Heaven is only heaven if all my relationships are at rights, and only Christ can approach the wronged and ask them to give him their pains.”

    This is right on! I couldn’t say anything else that would add to this.

  16. I appreciate GB Smith’s observation of May 10. I am seeking to understand the Atonement of Christ on a deeper level than I ever have so that I can find my way clear to forgive my stepfather’s abuses 45 year ago. Yet it’s helpful that others realize this is not an easy task. In the end, if my stepfather is who he was, this achievement will be more for me than him but I feel a tremendous need to be able to do it. and that requires that I understand the Atonement.

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