Monday, October 7, 2013

Be Ye Therefore Perfect

Jesus said, "Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect." Now, without cheating, can you remember the context of these familiar words?  Certainly the words are a profound directive in themselves, but are we missing anything by studying this verse in isolation?

In his October 2013 general conference address, Bishop Gerald Caussé spoke about the need to extend love to strangers, and those who are different than us:
    Throughout time, the people of God have been commanded to care for all individuals who are strangers, or who may be seen as different.  In ancient times, a stranger benefited from the same obligation of hospitality as a widow or an orphan.  Like them, the stranger was in a situation of great vulnerability, and his survival depended on the protection he received from the local population.
    During his earthly ministry Jesus was an example of one who went far beyond the simple obligation of hospitality and tolerance.  Those who were excluded from society, those who were rejected and considered to be impure by the self-righteous, were given his compassion and respect.  They received an equal part of his teachings and ministry.
    Jesus asked us to observe the law of perfect love, which is a universal and unconditional gift.
  Matt. 5:46 For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?
  47 And if ye salute your brethren only, what do ye more than others? do not even the publicans so?
  48 Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
In Victor Hugo's novel Les Misérables, the ex-convict Jean Valjean is invited in from the cold by the benevolent Bishop Myriel.  Valjean is almost unable to believe the Bishop's willingness to take him in, even after having been informed of Valjean's history, to which Bishop Myriel responds:
    This is not my house; it is the house of Jesus Christ. This door does not demand of him who enters whether he has a name, but whether he has a grief. You suffer, you are hungry and thirsty; you are welcome. And do not thank me; do not say that I receive you in my house. No one is at home here, except the man who needs a refuge. I say to you, who are passing by, that you are much more at home here than I am myself. Everything here is yours.
Bishop Caussé makes the following observation:
    In this church, our wards and our quorums do not belong to us, they belong to Jesus Christ. Whoever enters our meeting houses should feel at home.
What if we had the same attitude about our homes, our neighborhoods, and our wards?  How much closer would we be to becoming perfect?  If we truly understood our position as beggars in this life, would we be so quick to judge those around us?  Or would we realize that God is no respecter of persons, and that we are no more deserving of God's grace than the "stranger" who may look, act, and think differently than us?
    Unity is not achieved by ignoring and isolating members who seem to be different or weaker and only associating with people who are like us. On the contrary, unity is gained by welcoming and serving those who are new, and who have particular needs. These members are a blessing for the church, and provide us with opportunities to serve our neighbors, and thus purify our own hearts.
If you are like me, you may find it easier to associate only with those few individuals who have a similar background to your own, or who think and act like you.  As we strive for perfection, we must take the pure love of Christ that we have received and share it with others. For
Matt. 25:40 Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

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