Love and Law

The title of this post comes from a talk given by Dallin H. Oaks, which you can read here.

I chose to talk about this today simply because I believe that it is the core argument of several religious debates/discussions which I am sure many of you have had. Basically the question that I pose is “If God exists (and I believe He does), does He have any laws or rules that He requires us to live by? If so, what are they?” Furthermore I will discuss how God’s laws are an expression of His love, not an enforcement of anger or vengeance.

My parents gave me a 12:00am curfew. If I wasn’t  home before midnight, I was grounded the following weekend. Pretty basic law, right? I often showed up somewhere within the 60 seconds after 11:59 and before 12:00, but nonetheless I always showed up on time. Often I thought to myself, so what if I am 1,2,5 minutes late? Is being out at 12:03 that much more dangerous than being out at 11:59? Foolishly I tried to find ways to “bend” my parents’ laws, but without fail my Dad would stay up under the clock, watching and waiting for my eventual arrival, eager to point out how I should not push it to the edge, and that if I showed up a minute later, I would be grounded. I think I have come to understand my father’s example.

To me, God does have laws like my father did. They don’t involve midnight curfews, they involve things of a much more eternal nature. Think along the lines of “Thou shalt not kill”. To my knowledge, this law is still in effect. It really is quite simple, don’t kill people! This is one of a whole host of laws that God has set for our mortal time here on earth. There are the 10 commandments of the Old Testament (and more aside from those), as well as further laws introduced by Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Baptism, for example, is one of God’s laws. Christ said “Except a man be born of water….he cannot enter into the Kingdom of God”. I will likely discuss baptism in a future post.

God gives us laws because He loves us. My Dad wanted me home before midnight not to restrict me, but to keep me safe. In the same way, God loves us so He gives us laws that will bless us and bring us happiness. If we don’t kill people, we will be happy. If we love others, we will be happy. If we don’t lie, steal, cheat, blaspheme, and engage in immoral behavior, we will be confident, optimistic, faithful, true, and blessed. God’s laws are given for our benefit. God’s laws are not flexible or subjective. If I have to come home before midnight, so does everyone else. He won’t change the curfew just because of circumstance. All have to be clean. What he does understand, though, is that not all people have the law given to them. Most people understand that killing is bad, but what if some child in the world has been taught from a child to hurt and kill their neighbors? Is it their fault that they are performing unrighteous acts? In these circumstances, God understands one’s understanding of law. However, in the end, all will be judged by the same universal, irrevocable laws.

I believe that God’s rewards for our obeying His laws and His punishments for disobeying them are signs of His love for us, and that if we are unsure about what His laws are we can seek His help in prayer and through revelation find answers. We can also LIVE a certain law, and if it produces happiness, peace, love, and joy to others, then it must be good.

What do you believe about God’s law? Comment below, and share this blog with others.

Judge not.

I sincerely apologize for not posting last week. I was on vacation, and did not have access to a computer or a smartphone to post anything. I tend to travel light on vacation, especially when it comes to technology. That way, I can actually get my mind off of the cares of the world, and enjoy myself.

While on vacation, I decided to reread The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne. If you haven’t read it before, it is a beautifully written book about the punishment affixed to a young woman, Hester Prynne, who commits adultery. The novel itself could be used as a case study on several different issues, but I will only discuss one. As the title describes, the chief punishment ruled down upon Hester is to wear a scarlet embroidered “A” on her chest for the rest of her life, serving as a reminder to herself and the community of the nature of her sin. This “A” for “adultery” was to be worn at all times, and was even to be worn while standing on a stump in front of the entire town square for three whole hours. You can sense the magnitude of the ignominy Hester must have felt: hundreds of eyes, each pair more penetrating than the next, staring at her as the raw personification of sin. It is miraculous that Hester summons the courage to carry on, raise her newly born daughter,  and seek for peace.

This situation, to me, vividly displays the searing brand that unrighteous judgment burns upon the hearts of those who have done wrong. For Hester, it was physically manifested on her chest, but for those in today’s world, it lies chiefly in our hearts and in our minds. When others cast unrighteous judgment upon us, we feel vulnerable, weak, and helpless. We begin to label ourselves, and cast a false veil of sin over our whole identity.

What do I mean by unrighteous judgment? I believe that there is a difference between righteous and unrighteous judgment. Righteous judgment comes from stewardship. Parents make righteous judgments to protect their children, for example. This is perfectly fine for those of us on earth. In the New Testament, we read in John 7:24 that we are to “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment”. Another translation of that verse goes “Judge not according to your traditions“. Whether it be according to appearance or traditions, unrighteous judgment is characterized by a labeling of an individual’s heart. I believe that no one knows the thoughts and intents of one’s heart save Jesus Christ. Hester’s forced ignominy as she stood in front of the town square is highly analogous to the woman taken in adultery in the Book of John. In this poignant account, angry men throw an adulterer at the feet of Jesus, and remind him that Moses and the law commands that those who commit adultery should be stoned. When asked what should be done with her, Christ responds “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her”. This merciful response demonstrates that only the Savior, who atoned for all of mankind, and who knows each of us perfectly, is able to judge our hearts. Christ’s unique role as the one who atoned for us all allows him to make judgments on our hearts and our eternal standing. Only He knows exactly where we stand when it comes to personal worthiness and our ability to become something greater than we are. This type of judgment is off limits to mortals, who like Hester, are imperfect.

Christ further teaches this principle by admonishing us to cast out the beam of our own eye when we find a mote in someone else’s eye. We are all imperfect. We all have sinned. We all need divine mercy. We are all at varying degrees of righteousness. I believe that we are not to judge unrighteously, and label a person’s standing before God.

I believe in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Redeemer. I believe that with His help we can become clean and pure, and that instead of casting judgment upon those who have done wrong, we should seek to help them overcome those things that cause them pain.

What do you believe about judgment? What do you believe about Christ as it pertains to this topic? How can we avoid unrighteous judgment?

O say, what is truth?

My post this week is slightly delayed. I sincerely apologize. Again, if you are reading this for the first time, see the Purpose tab.

The topic today has to do with truth. The question that will be discussed is “Is there absolute truth?”. I think this is an interesting topic, and one that is highly debated/discussed among those that are seekers of truth, and those who wonder about religion and faith in general.

When I lived in Boise, ID last summer, I met someone who was extremely intrigued by churches claims that they had the “truth”. He asked me “If one church says they have the truth, and the other says THEY have the truth, what is the truth? I want to know the TRUTH”. I think that is an extremely poignant observation. What is to be concluded by differing claims of truth? Is there absolute truth in the first place, or is truth relative? Can some things be true for me and not true for you? If there is absolute truth, how can we find it? Who has the authority to say what truth is and what it is not?

For sake of brevity, I won’t attempt to answer all of the questions above, or explain every detail of what I believe regarding truth, but I will say this: I believe in absolute truth. Truth, to me, is fundamental. As an example, think of gravity. It affects everyone the same (watch different objects fall in a vacuum), and ALWAYS produces the same results. No one is exempt from its universal power. It is a fundamental building block of everyone’s life, and all are subject to it. Nothing anyone can say is able to deny the existence of this universal force.

Now, the man in Boise wasn’t discussing scientific truths, he was concerned about spiritual truth. But to him, and to those reading this blog, I respond that there is absolute spiritual truth that affects us all, and is relevant to us all, just like gravity. I believe that God exists. I don’t believe He exists for me, or for some groups of people, but for ALL. I believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of everyone who has ever lived or will live on this planet. One name for Christ is the “truth”. I think that is interesting, because He declared while on this earth that He is the only way by which to return to God. I believe that. Due to the nature of truth, that means that there are absolutes, which are hard for some people to accept. If someone says “I don’t believe in Jesus Christ, but you do, who is right?” I would respond with “Let’s not discuss right or wrong, let’s discuss truth. If it is true that he lived, and was the Son of God, then His teachings are universal to all  humankind. All must come to find out whether or not that is true”.

I believe the source of all truth is God, our Eternal Father. If it were not so, then there would be no way to know what is true and what is not. There must be a standard, else truth is relative and not truth at all. I believe that we can pray to God and ask Him what the truth is, and He will ALWAYS reveal it to us. I have done this, and I have come to learn of things that are true. I invite all those who are seeking truth to ask God in faith, and he will reveal unto you the truth of all things. He can’t reveal different truth to different people. He can’t say “Jesus is the Christ” to one and “Jesus is not the Christ” to another. He must be the same source of perfect truth to all, or we have no way to determine spiritual truth.

What do you believe? Do you believe in absolute truth? If so, how do you find it? What effect does spiritual truth have on your life? Does it effect the way you live? Please comment below.