It is such a blessing that the gospel of Jesus Christ is a gospel of second chances. And of third chances and fourth chances and so on. When Jesus suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane, He knew all too well that I would repeatedly make the same mistakes. That despite my desire to “be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect” (Matt 5:48), I still fall short of that goal each and every day. Yet He still suffered for me. He still bled at every poor and He still was beaten and bruised and He still hung on the cross for me. And for all of us. Sometimes life seems like such a daunting task. We are commanded to become perfect, to obey the commandments with exactness (Alma 57:1). But as imperfect humans, how is it fair to ask this of us? In one of my previous posts, I focused on the story of the rich man who was unwilling to give up his riches in order to inherit eternal life. Unfortunately the rest of the man’s story is left untold and I am not sure what happened to him during the rest of his life. But what I do know is that his response to that question from Christ wasn’t the last chance he had. His entire life was likely filled with opportunities and chances to change his mind, to give up his riches and return to live with God. What a dreary world it would be if we were all judged off of our first response to everything. But what a glorious world it is because we get a second and third and fourth and however many chances it takes. Certainly we can’t purposefully disobey the commandments of God and then turn around and repent and expect to be made clean. But as we earnestly try to become better, our Savior will be right along side us to buoy us up when we start to sink again. Because He has commanded us to forgive others “not until seven times but until seventy times seven” I can only believe that He would forgive us even more than that (Matt 18). I testify that God, and His son, Jesus Christ, love us. That They know us individually and personally. That They knew we would need a Savior and that Christ came to this earth in order to save us. I know that He gives us the chances that we need, and the help that we need. I have felt the redeeming power of God in my life. I know that we are not alone in this fight. “For I will go before your face. I will be on your right hand and on your left, and my Spirit shall be in your hearts, and mine angels round about you, to bear you up” (Doctrine and Covenants 84:88).
During this time of year, people are more drawn to the story of Christ’s birth. Similarly, during Easter people are drawn to the death and resurrection of Christ. While these two moments in history are clearly very defining and instrumental to the plan of God, isn’t Christ so much more than just His birth and death? The atonement of Jesus Christ, most often associated along with His death and resurrection, was perhaps the most important act in all of history, for it gave me and everyone of us the chance to return to live with God despite our shortcomings. Yet, there is still so much more to Christ. He had a whole life filled with miracles and teachings. Perhaps a few of these moments from His life can help us better understand what Jesus was really all about. For after all, “he that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk, even as he walked” (1 John 2:6).
Because of the state of the world in which we live in, there are certain aspects I want to focus on in relation to the life of Jesus. First, He taught about peace. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). The peace that is available through Jesus Christ is unlike anything else. Surely we may have moments of peace when our children stop screaming, our homework is finally complete, or we see a beautiful sunset. Yet these moments of peace are so fleeting. The peace of Jesus is everlasting. Although there may be turmoil throughout the world that surrounds each of us, we can feel peace inside our hearts as we continually hold to Christ and to his gospel.
Second, Jesus taught us to endure to the end. At first sight, this phrase seems very daunting and gives the implication that life isn’t anything enjoyable if we simply have to endure the whole time. However, that is the opposite of the truth. The plan of salvation, the plan that God has for each of us, is often referred to as the plan of happiness. This happiness is not only achieved once we return to live with God, but is available yesterday, today and forever. 2 Timothy 2:3 says “thou therefore endure hardness, as a good soldier of Jesus Christ”. Then in James, it is said that “we count them happy which endure” (5:11). Surely there will be days, weeks, or years of our lives where we must endure through times of sadness, anger, loneliness, and other trials. Yet as we endure, with the trust that God is by our side and will not forsake us, we shall be saved from our afflictions (Matthew 24:13).
Third, Jesus taught us how to love. He gave us the commandment to love one another in John 15:12. Perhaps this is one of the most controversial subjects today between religious and secular groups. However, I believe we must remember that loving people doesn’t always mean we love what they do or how they act. Jesus Christ was the perfect example of love and dedication and everything else, but he wasn’t accepting of sin and he wasn’t going to condone that which was contrary to the will of God. In our minds we like to make Jesus to be what we want him to be, yet we have to know Him as He truly was in order to walk in his footsteps. In Matthew 21 He finds many people selling and buying in the temple of God, place that is sacred and holy. Yes He loves these people, but He also has to stand for what is right and he “went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves”. Just two verses later in that same chapter in Matthew, Christ heals the blind and the lame. We must be loving towards our fellow men, whether or not we agree with what they do. But we must also stand for what is right. Surely the grace and mercy of God is available for all to use, but we were sent to this earth in order to prove ourselves. We were sent here to show that despite the temptations and trials that beset us we are willing to live a life of righteousness in order to return back and live with God. “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:8). Our lives must align with the word of God, not the other way around.
I know that Jesus Christ lives today. I am grateful for His birth and I am grateful for His death and resurrection. But I am grateful that He woke up everyday and went forth among the people teaching and healing and acting in the name of God. I love Jesus Christ for everything He has done for me, but I also love Him specifically for the reason that He was a Savior every single day, He was a Redeemer every single day, and He continues to do so even so many years later. Because He wasn’t a one time Savior, I know I can’t be a one time Christian, or a Christmas season Christian. It has to be a choice that is made everyday. Daily effort to walk as Jesus walked will make the difference in my life and in others’ lives. “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).