Sunday, November 10, 2013

"Loving God More than We Love The World"

I'm teaching the lesson in Relief Society (the women's organization) in church today. Here is the outline of my lesson. The lesson from the manual is here. My thanks to The Exponent for their ideas about the lesson as well (I used several of them).

The parts in bold are the section headings from the manual. The parts in italics are the questions I asked of the class (and the parts [in brackets] following them are answers I anticipate, or the direction I will guide the discussion into if needed]. Quoted things are indented.

The title of this lesson is “Loving God more than we love the world”

I want to begin by defining what it is to love God, and then move into what it is to love the world.

 In October 2012 conference Elder Holland told the story of the eleven remaining apostles immediately after Christ’s death and resurrection. They were not sure what they should do now that Christ was not there, so they returned to their fishing boats. Christ came to them on the beach and told them that they should not be still fishing, because they should be changed because of their time with Him. This is when He asks Peter “do you love me” and Peter says yes he does. Jesus tells him “if you love me, feed my sheep.”

[quoting from his talk]
My beloved brothers and sisters, I am not certain just what our experience will be on Judgment Day, but I will be very surprised if at some point in that conversation, God does not ask us exactly what Christ asked Peter: “Did you love me?” I think He will want to know if in our very mortal, very inadequate, and sometimes childish grasp of things, did we at least understand one commandment, the first and greatest commandment of them all—“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind.” And if at such a moment we can stammer out, “Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” then He may remind us that the crowning characteristic of love is always loyalty.
“If ye love me, keep my commandments,” Jesus said. So we have neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, and the truth to defend. We have wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship to give in demonstrating our love of the Lord. We can’t quit and we can’t go back. After an encounter with the living Son of the living God, nothing is ever again to be as it was before. The Crucifixion, Atonement, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ mark the beginning of a Christian life, not the end of it. It was this truth, this reality, that allowed a handful of Galilean fishermen-turned-again-Apostles without “a single synagogue or sword” to leave those nets a second time and go on to shape the history of the world in which we now live. 

I have often noticed that basically every commandment we have, from the ten commandments on down, falls into one of the “two great commandments” of loving God and loving our neighbor as ourselves.
“There are two basic motivating forces: fear and love. When we are afraid, we pull back from life. When we love, we open to all that life has to offer with passion, excitement, and acceptance. We need to learn to love ourselves first, in all our glory and our imperfections. If we cannot love ourselves, we cannot fully open to our ability to love others or our potential to create. All hopes for a better world rest in the fearlessness and open-hearted vision of people who embrace life.” ~ John Lennon 
We’ve been told that faith is the opposite of fear, and also that it drives it out. I like this comparison of faith and love, because it goes right along with the idea that if we have the faith to love God, then we’ll show it in fearless love of others.

God shows us an example of unconditional love, forgiving us our faults and offering support in our struggles. Julian of Norwich was an early Christian mystic and she said “If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.”

As our Heavenly Parents love us, so we are to show our love in return by serving our neighbor. And who is our neighbor? In the story of the Good Samaritan the neighbor was simply someone who was there, who was willing and able to help, regardless of religious, political, or economic differences.

What acts does Elder Holland suggest we perform to show our love for God? 
[neighbors to bless, children to protect, the poor to lift up, truth to defend, wrongs to make right, truths to share, and good to do. In short, we have a life of devoted discipleship]

How do you show love for God in your daily acts? 

[Going back to faith and love over fear…my story of picking up the old man on Christmas Eve if there is time]

Christ says that when we do something for another person—ANY other person—then we are doing it for Him. When we clothe the naked, feed the hungry, mourn with those that mourn and comfort those that stand in need of comfort, we are loving God.

Most of us have probably heard the quote from President Kimball “God does notice us, and he watches over us. But it is usually through another person that he meets our needs. Therefore, it is vital that we serve each other.”

I really like the way that Mother Theresa put it “I’m a little pencil in the hand of a writing God, who is sending a love letter to the world.”
Do you ever feel like God’s little pencil? In what ways? 

When people allow worldliness to pervade their minds and hearts, they turn their backs on eternal principles. 

Now that we’ve established what it looks like to love God, let’s move on to what it is to love the world.

In this lesson, President Snow discusses a time in church history where many people had powerful spiritual experiences during the dedication of the Kirtland Temple, including prophesying, speaking in tongues, and seeing and hearing angels. Shortly afterward there was a great deal of speculation—financial risk-taking—going on in the area. Many of the church members got involved in it, and divisions and contention came among them because of it. At every level people were leaving the church, even including several of the apostles, all because their focus on personal gain—or potential personal gain—was the center of their focus and they stopped remembering the Lord.

So what do we mean when we talk about “worldliness” or loving the world? 
How did it happen then? How can it happen to us now? 

From the manual:
The god of the world is the gold and the silver. The world worships this god. It is all-powerful to them, though they might not be willing to acknowledge it. Now, it is designed, in the providence of God, that the Latter-day Saints should show whether they have so far advanced in the knowledge, in the wisdom and in the power of God that they cannot be overcome by the god of the world. We must come to that point. We have also got to reach another standard, a higher plane: we have got to love God more than we love the world, more than we love gold or silver, and love our neighbor as ourselves. 
Can someone do their callings, pay their tithing, read their scriptures, come to meetings every week and still succumb to worldliness?
[Obviously yes]
Are there people outside the church who are loving and serving and doing good in the world?
[Obviously yes]

We have covenanted to separate ourselves from worldliness and devote ourselves to the kingdom of God. 

From the manual:
I thank God that in these times of corruption and wickedness in the world, we have holy and righteous men and women who can devote those superior talents which God has bestowed upon them to His praise and glory. And I might say further, that there are thousands of virtuous and honorable men and women, whom the Lord has gathered out from the nations, that are also willing to devote their time and talents to aid in accomplishing the work of God in the interest of His children. 
How do you avoid worldliness in your daily life? 
How can we help others do so?
[working long hours instead of spending time with family or other loved ones, focusing on social status, overconsumption of worldly goods, vanity, intolerance of other cultures, religions, political positions, _________]

From Matthew 6:
19 Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal:
20 But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal:
21 For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
24 No [one] can serve two masters. 

We follow the Savior’s example when we refuse to trade the glories of eternity for the riches of the world.

From the manual:
Now let me ask the question, Who [does] possess anything, who can really and truly call any of this world’s goods [her] own? I do not presume to, I am merely a steward over a very little, and unto God I am held accountable for its use and disposition… Who shall say that the rich, or those that possess many talents, have any better hope or prospect to inherit these blessings than the poor, or those who have but one talent? As I understand it, [one person] who lives according to the law of the Gospel, and is honest and faithful in his [or her] calling, that [person] is just as eligible to the receiving of these and all the blessings of the New and Everlasting Covenant as any other [person]. 
I think sometimes we have a hard time translating Jesus’ example to a modern context. He walked around the desert healing people and telling stories, but we have jobs and kids and laundry to do. However there is a modern day person who I think does an amazing job of following the Savior’s example and that is Pope Francis. I’m hoping that you have seen some of the many articles about him. He may not heal people or feed them by the thousand, but he does talk with them, pray with them, and hug them. He made the Vatican get rid of the expensive mercedes and since then he’s been using inexpensive and used vehicles. He keeps setting aside the extravagant things, and instead spending his time and energy with people, especially those who are poor, sick, disabled, disfigured, or otherwise disenfranchised.

From Matthew 25
34 Then shall the King say unto them…Come, ye blessed, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:
35 For I was hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in:
36 Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.
37 Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink?
38 When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee?
39 Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee?
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye have done it unto me.
What can we do to make sure we are loving God more than the world?

 My testimony that serving others makes us happy. 

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