When the new Sunday School manual for 2019 came out I took a look at the first lesson to get a feel for how the lessons were organized. The teacher’s manual includes a video clip of the interview Christ had with the rich young man who was told to sell everything he had and give the money to the poor. As I watched the young man’s reaction to the instructions to go and sell all that he had so he could follow Jesus, something struck me. That young man had no idea who he was talking to, who he was rejecting. Rejection was probably not the word highest in his mind at that moment, because he was too busy sorrowing after his required losses if he was to follow the Savior’s counsel.
The young man was talking to the very person who would judge the whole world in the day of judgement. He was talking to the very creator of the universe, the person who had created the planet on which he lived, and by whose spirit he lived and breathed every moment of his life. And he was rejecting him because he loved his toys (which he would leave behind at death) more than him who gave him the life he was currently enjoying. The young rich man was rejecting the only man who could ultimately forgive his sins. There is more than a little bit of irony at play there.
Setting up a pattern of rejection
We began our first estate when our Father in heaven clothed us with spirit bodies and began to teach us how to progress toward godhood. Since his work and his glory is “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man” (Moses 1:39), I can’t imagine there ever being a time when our eventual godhood wasn’t included in everything we were taught.
All of God’s children were raised in love and peace in a perfect environment. There was no backbiting, no sin, no parents with issues. Our heavenly parents knew the importance of their roles to raise us and guide us in perfect righteousness. And we all had perfect examples of what parents should be like. Yet despite this upbringing, one third of his children chose to support Lucifer, preferring him to be their god, rather than our Father to be their God. Lucifer wanted God’s throne, and a third of the children of God supported him in his quest for that throne.
It took a war in heaven to settle the issue with our rebelling brothers and sisters. Our Father had to consign one third of his children to perdition for open rebellion of his laws, and we hadn’t even made it past the first stage of our eternal progression! Think of it. Lucifer was able to convince a third of God’s children to reject His perfect love for whatever promises of ease, comfort, or power Lucifer was promising them. They had an absolute knowledge of the goodness of God and his perfection, yet they chose eternal damnation rather than to live under his merciful rule.
Our Father in heaven loved them with all his heart. He treated them no differently than he would have treated all his other children, because he is no respecter of persons. How painful it must have been for God and his Christ to have all that potential and offers of glory rejected for hollow lies and betrayal of their love. But the law is the law, and they had justly earned their reward. There was nothing he could do but to reward them according to their choices, since they had moral agency just like we did. This was how they chose to use their agency, and he could not violate that agency.
Moving to our second estate
Those who used their agency to choose God over Lucifer fulfilled the conditions of our first estate and qualified to move on to the second estate, mortality. The reward for having kept our first estate was the promise of an immortal resurrected body in a kingdom of glory, whether a limited kingdom of glory or in the celestial kingdom where there would be glory added upon our heads forever. The promise was that every soul would receive this reward through the merits of our Redeemer, Jesus Christ.
Was that the end of the rejection and betrayal of God’s love? Not by a long shot. Even those who, knowing perfectly who God was, had to still make it through mortality without further betrayal. But without that perfect knowledge of our Father and our Savior, Lucifer, now known as Satan, has been able to cloud the judgment and convince many of God’s children that Satan’s ways are more alluring than God’s promises. So we have literally billions of God’s children who have participated in and accepted Satan’s lies during their time in mortality.
Satan thinks this has given him the upper hand in his continuing war on God and his children. But God, knowing more about the nature of his children than Satan, included a time for them to be redeemed after mortality in the spirit world. So even in death he is still reaching out to his children to give them every opportunity to be redeemed through the merits of Christ.
Christ’s time in mortality
It is true that Christ created the universe. He created the earth on which we live out our lives. He was the God of the Old Testament, the great Jehovah, the giver of the law of Moses. But when he came to earth, Jesus was to come in a special role. Despite his pedigree, he was to come to earth and live as any other mortal in most respects. He was not coming as the King of Kings and Lord of Lords during his time on earth. He was the son of a carpenter, born in a manger, and raised in a small town of no great fame. He was not rich. He was not powerful. He had no political influence. He grew up to be an itinerant preacher.
In his time in mortality he had to be subject to all manner of humiliations. He was rejected, reviled, mocked, ridiculed, and scorned, just as any other human might be. The powerful around him tried to trap him and find reasons for killing him because they hated what he stood for. Did Jesus know who he was? Yes, he did. He knew what he had done as Jehovah, and what he was going to do for these very people who were mocking him and wanting to stone him. He knew that without the sacrifice he would make in their behalf they would be forever locked out of God’s presence, their Father in heaven.
Jesus also knew the people were blind, and that much of that blindness was not their fault, but the fault of their forefathers who had rejected the truth he had given them as Jehovah. He also knew they did not have the gift of the Holy Ghost to bear witness of him. He actually needed them in this wicked state, because they needed to kill him. The scriptures teach us that only the Jews, his own covenant people, were wicked enough to kill their own God, for if any other group of people had witnessed the miracles Jesus performed, they would have welcomed him as their God.
From the beginning the plan of salvation stated that Christ had to be killed by his own people. He had to be utterly rejected by the very people he was there to save. His work had to be done on his own merits, without any outside help. He had to be alone in his sacrifice, and his sacrifice had to be utterly complete. He had to give all of himself for his Father’s children. Not only did he have to suffer for their (our) sins, but he had to do it all alone.
The great sacrifice
Look in the scriptures for anyone who stayed by Christ’s side as he was scourged, mocked, tortured, and crucified. There was no one. He was totally abandoned. There were followers who stayed at a distance, but there was no one who spoke up for him, or who tried to physically come to his rescue. Talk about being abandoned. Jesus, who had suffered every form of injustice during his mortal ministry, who then went to Gethsemane and suffered the consequences and pains of every sin and injustice known to mankind for every person who had and would ever live, was, in the end, abandoned even by God our Father. In the very end he had to be able to say that he had accomplished his sacrifice on our behalf all by himself. And he did.
What does he know of forgiveness?
Christ was there with the Father in our first estate when a third of the children of God rejected they who had loved them wholly and completely. As Jehovah he experienced his own repeated attempts to bless the lives of the children of covenant Israel (Jacob). As much as he loved his people, he knew they were rebellious and stubborn. He had to punish them with captivity, famines, and a host of other results because of their betrayal of their covenants. But his love for them never flagged or wavered.
As the Messiah in the New Testament Jesus was guided in his ministry by our Father in Heaven to do all in his power to demonstrate God’s continuing love for his children. Jesus sacrificed himself in every respect to do all in his power to convince the people around him that he could offer them so much more than Satan could. He then paid for all their/our sins, knowing that most of the children of God would still succumb to Satan’s lies. But despite all that, he paid the price for their temporal salvation anyway, because he promised he would do that in the premortal world. It was part of his calling as our Savior.
His payment for our sins and subsequent resurrection opened the door for us to be ultimately forgiven of our currently unrepented sins, and to be resurrected as well. His act of love for us promises us all a resurrected body and a kingdom of glory for eternity. And for those of us who repent of our sins through his atoning sacrifice, we can obtain eternal life, the kind of life God, himself, lives, and will be blessed with eternal increase and family ties.
God, our Father has always known who would accept him and his Son, and who would reject them. Jesus knew of our weaknesses and loved us anyway, before our mortality, and during our mortality. He is still working with the children of God in the spirit world to reclaim as many of them for his Father as he can. This is what spurs on the great missionary work on the other side of the veil, and the temple work on this side of the veil. Despite our fickle and often disrespectful nature, he continues to love us and wants to forgive our sins. He is willing to forgive us, and always will forgive us just as soon as we turn from our sins and return to him.
I can see now that we know nothing of the charity, the love, like God experiences pure love. Small wonder Jesus has commanded us In Doctrine and Covenants 64:10
10 I, the Lord, will forgive whom I will forgive, but of you it is required to forgive all men.
We are babes in the woods. We know nothing about the hearts of our brothers and sisters. We ourselves are burdened with sins. What right do we have to claim the privilege of deciding who should be forgiven of their sins and who shouldn’t? Only God has that kind of perspective and knowledge. Our brothers and sisters are in the same condition we, ourselves are in. We are all riddled with sins that need to be forgiven.
God truly does know and understand betrayal and rejection. He knows what it means to love so purely and completely that no amount of sin can tarnish his love for the sinner. He takes no joy in punishing us when we sin, but his laws must be upheld, especially by himself. Always and forever Christ’s atoning sacrifice remains in force, allowing us to be forgiven of our sins whenever we choose to turn to God for forgiveness. But even this great promise of forgiveness has an expiration date. On the day of judgment it will be everlastingly too late to change our minds. If we are going to seek reconciliation with God (forgiveness of sins), today is the best time to do it.
It is important that we always have the idea clearly affixed in our minds that we do not think like God, nor understand as God does. We are his disciples, and he is our master. Judging others is not up to us, but up to him. It will take everything we have just to learn to love others with a Christlike purity without having to worry about needing to judge their state of righteousness. We should be all too happy to leave that in the capable hands of the Lord.
As we reach out to serve others we are bound to eventually experience such unpleasantries as betrayal and rejection. Such is the human condition. But when we follow the Savior’s example and love those who reject us or betray us anyway, the Savior will teach us what it means to feel true charity.