This was written as part of the CFM Easter lesson for 2023. The first lesson talks about how Jesus Christ delivers me from sin and death, strengthens me in my weaknesses, and comforts me in my trials. So I wrote about how we develop a relationship with someone we don’t pray to or talk to.
Today I will attempt to describe to you what I have been struggling to define for myself for several decades. Please forgive my inadequacy in my attempt and look at my words as a guide to what might be for yourself.
As most people think of the notion of having a relationship with someone, we usually think of something with a degree of emotional intimacy – a two way intimacy. Mind you, I am not talking about a physical or sexual intimacy in any way, only emotionally. Think of your best friend. There is a closeness there. Why? Because you understand each other. You have been there to support and care for one another over an extended period of time. The two of you are aware of each other’s weaknesses and strengths. You have supported each other through trials and difficulties, and have been forgiving of one another. There has been an understanding of one another’s nature and abilities that has grown over the years that is precious and sustaining between the two of you. This is what builds that tender emotional bond between the two of you that makes you best friends.
When it comes to the Savior, and having that kind of bond with him, we have a problem. We can’t pray directly to him, interact directly with him, yet everyone says we are supposed to have this “personal relationship” with him. How do we do that? Here is my understanding of how we begin to build trust and gain confidence in his love for each of us, and how we come to love and adore him in return.
I would like to make a brief commentary on 1 John 4:7-20. This takes a little thinking and explanation to get. Remember that we are trying to build a relationship with a person with whom we have no direct contact. Jesus has such love and respect for our Father in Heaven that he deliberately takes no glory – credit if you will – for all that he has done for us to bring us back to our Father. When he stated in the Council in Heaven that the glory would be God’s, he meant it completely. So we don’t pray to Jesus or talk directly to him. All of our communication is to our Father. Our focus, the glory we give to God, is suppose to go directly to the Father, though we cannot worthily ask God for anything, because of our sinful nature. For this reason we always pray in the name of God’s only worthy child, Christ. He has interceded on our behalf with our Father. When God grants our prayers and rewards us for our puny efforts to improve, it is because Jesus has prayed to God and asked Him to bless us because he was worthy to ask such a thing of our Father. Not us, him.
Jesus loves us so much that he only asks us to show our love for him and for God by loving one another. He knows that we cannot see him, and therefore it is difficult for us to love what we cannot see. So he says that he will take it as a sign that we love him if we can learn to love our fellow man. Here are the verses.
7 Beloved, let us one another: for is of God; and every one that loveth is , and knoweth God.
8 He that loveth not not God; for God is love.
These verses are telling us that the nature of God is to love others. This is what emotion we are supposed to learn to have that guides our every action in life. If we haven’t learned to love like this then we can’t really know the nature and personality of God, for He is full of perfect love. In the next three verses we are taught that it is the love of God that caused Him to give us a way to come back from the trials of mortality by sending a Savior for us to pay for and die for our sins, something we are not capable of doing for ourselves. Such is His love for all that He gave up His most worthy and righteous Son as a sacrifice for the rest of His family. Mind you this is a sacrifice that Christ made willingly and with just as much love in his heart as God, Himself. They are one in this respect.
9 In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might through him.
10 Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he us, and his Son to be the for our sins.
11 Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another.
Joseph Smith taught that no man has ever seen God, except them that believe in Him. Check your footnotes in your scriptures. Using the Greek translation of the English word “perfect” we can read verse twelve as saying that “God dwelleth in us, and his love is made whole or completed in us.”
12 man hath God at any time. If we love one another, in us, and his love is perfected in us.
13 Hereby know we that we in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.
The sign that God loves us is the gift He has bestowed on all of us who have made the covenant of baptism. He has given us the gift of the Holy Ghost, who is Himself a God. The Holy Ghost’s responsibility in the Godhead is to teach us and lead us back to God, our Father. The Holy Spirit does the will of Christ in all things, so when we have His influence in our life, receiving promptings and inspiration in any form, it is a sign of favor from Christ, because we have been obedient to his commandments. When we are not obedient we lose much of the influence of the Spirit in our life.
14 And we have seen and do that the Father the Son to be the of the .
15 Whosoever shall that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God.
16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.
17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he , so are we in this world.
Let’s get a quick word of explanation of verses 14-17. Because God is characterized as being love, because He is full of love in all that He does, when we love one another we come to understand and become in a greater degree like God. We begin to understand each other. We use the example Christ set for us during his mortal ministry to show us how to do this. As we learn a deeper appreciation for this attribute we come to have a deeper appreciation for Christ himself, for he shows us the way back to our Father.
18 There is no in ; but perfect casteth out fear: because fear hath . He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
As we saw from the life of Christ, love casts out the fear of what another might say, think, or do. All we think about is what is best for the welfare of that person. That is the nature of perfect love, charity. When we are able to look beyond the fears of mortality and love others despite their own behavior, then are we approaching the love that God has for us.
19 We him, because he first loved us.
This love we are seeking didn’t start with us. It came from God and was demonstrated to us by Christ. We learn to love him, because he first loved us. He showed us what it means to love in a godly way.
20 If a man say, I love God, and his , he is a : for he that loveth not his whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not ?
Finally, verse 20 tells us what we started off with, that God sent Christ to show us His love for us, because He knows that we cannot learn to love what we cannot see in mortality. Christ is our Godly example of what love is, and how to incorporate it into our life.
As I understand this process, I don’t have the intimacy with Christ that I have with my mortal best friend. What I have is a different kind of intimacy. I have a worshipful love and admiration for Christ that is much higher than that which I have for my mortal best friend. Christ shows each of us the way home through his own perfect example of love.
Too often we think of God as the great judge and strict punisher of wrong in the universe. While it is true that He must be exacting on disobedience in order to maintain what has been established, His motivation for everything that He does is done from a heart full of love. Remember that Moses 1:39 tells us that everything God does is with the goal in mind of giving His children exaltation and eternal life. No mention of punishment is made in that statement.
So Christ shows us the way back to God through his personal demonstrations of love. He has given us the Holy Ghost to teach us and lead us, to help us understand what the mortal mind cannot understand on its own. These blessings flow to us because we worship our Father in Heaven, as Christ directs us to, by learning to love one another in a Christlike way. This is how we show Christ our love for him, our appreciation for and of him and all that he has done and does do for us each day. No, we don’t pray directly to him, and we won’t have a “personal relationship” with him like we have with our mortal friends. What we have with Christ is holy reverence and gratitude. We have love for he who shows us how to become like him, and like God, Himself.
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