Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Hard Doctrines of Christ

Hard Doctrines of Christ
It seems that there are many Christians in the world today that have taken up the belief that Jesus patient and tolerant and accepts each of us as we are without expectations on our part to change, repent or grow into something more. I agree that Jesus the Christ is patient, loving, forgiving and compassionate. However, discipleship also requires, as the word implies, discipline. The upward path of the Christian is fraught with obstacles, hardships and disability. It is the path of continual introspection, evaluation and change. Stricken from the vocabulary should be phrases such as "I can't change, This is just the way I am."

The Savior's call to repent is an invitation to change your heart. True repentance occurs only when your heart is changed or transformed. Behavior, of course, will follow. We are invited to be renewed, redeemed and restored. But change is hard and usually requires effort and strength beyond our capabilities. Fortunately, the admonition to become a "new creature" in Christ brings with it spiritual guidance and support that can make all the difference. As we take the Holy Spirit as our guide (most often felt as promptings, thoughts and ideas from your conscience), we are led on the path of service and sacrifice. (Understand that a sacrifice is giving up something of lesser value for something much greater.)

Jesus was approached by a young man with a question:
KJV - Matthew 19:16-26
16 ¶And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?
 Christ answers that he should keep the commandments. 
 20 The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet?
 21 Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me.
 22 But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions.

I fear that many of us are like this young man. We are keeping all of the commandments, but we lack that one thing. Namely, detaching ourselves from our comforts and possessions and serving those in need. While few of us are called to sell our possessions and give them to the poor, we are expected to bless and serve those in need. 

In Matthew Chapter 25, Jesus pairs two parables together, which build up each other. In each of these parables effort and preparation are required to accomplish the task at hand.
In the parable of the 10 Virgins, all are worthy and have been invited to the wedding feast. Or in other words, all 10 have been keeping the commandments to the extent that they felt qualified to meet with the bridegroom (in this case the Savior). However, only 5 calculated what may be required and prepared for additional needs - namely that they may have to wait for a while is the bridegrooms coming is delayed, which would mean that extra lamp oil would be needed. When the cry came to meet the bridegroom, each virgin needed to be self-sufficient and could not lend any of their oil to the others. Now the foolish virgins seemed to have the financial means to purchase oil, which they ran off to the merchants to get, but they were not prepared at the time.

By the time they got back and returned to the marriage, it was too late and the Lord denied even knowing them. Wow, that seems like of harsh! He concludes with the advice to "Watch" or prepare.
Tied to and directly following this parable, with no commentary between the two, is the parable of the talents. A man traveling into a far country gives stewardship over his goods to his servants - divided unequally presumably based on the faithfulness or skill level of each servant. He expects them to manage these assets profitably. Upon the masters return, those given 5 and 2 talents produced a good return, while the servant given one talent was unprofitable. The Lord, of course, was please with the profitable servants and not pleased with the other.

These two parables are tied together as Christ differentiates between those who are judged to be righteous or wicked. "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me." Those who are considered righteous, feed the hungry, clothe the naked, house the stranger, visit the sick and imprisoned, essentially care for those who are in need. The wicked are those who don't do these things.

Could it be that "goodness" in the Lords eyes is based on serving those in need, more than simply "keeping the commandments"?

King Benjamin put it this way: "I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants." - It is interesting that we give and serve "according to their wants." The implication here is that judgment is taken out of the equation. It is not my job to determine for someone else, what is a need vs a want.

In the great Sermon on the Mount, Christ teaches:
21 ¶Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father, which is in heaven.
 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. (KJV Matthew 7:21-23)
It would appear that more is required than simply "confessing the name of Jesus" or considering within ourselves we are good Christian.

We are misled if we think that we can discharge our obligations to the poor and needy by shifting responsibility to the government or some other public agency. Only by voluntarily giving, out of abundance of love for our neighbor (defined as - those within the circle of your influence) can the pure love of Christ be developed. Jesus seems to give administering to the poor and needy top priority.  

In ancient times in Israel, Moses taught true principles of welfare.  (Levitcus 19:9-10) 
Farmers in that day, were instructed, during harvest, to leave the corners of their fields for the poor to come by later and glean - "harvest the leftovers". This program taught two basic principles namely (1) those who have - are to give, and (2) those who receive - are to work. Idleness back then as well as today is not a godly virtue.

Lest we judge those who may fit the biblical definition of being idle, we are taught that it is not our place to judge the poor and needy.
Joseph Smith taught, "Indolent and unworthy the beggar may be - but that is not your concern: It is better, to feed ten impostors than to run the risk of turning away one honest petition." We are called upon to bless the lives of those whom the Lord will put within our influence, as well as provide support to worthy organizations dedicated to helping those in need.  
Once Mother Theresa was asked how she could continue day after day after day, visiting the terminally ill: feeding them, touching them, wiping their brows, giving them comfort as they lay dying. And she said, "It's not hard, because in each one I see the face of Christ in one of His more distressing disguises."

And so, to me, it would appear that the difference between the righteous and the wicked can be distilled down to our attitude of how we treat those who are poor and in need. This is certainly, (speaking only for myself,) something worth contemplation, self-evaluation and reconsidering how I conduct my life and my financial stewardship.

Is this a Hard Doctrine of Christ? It is said that the Lord only speaks hard things as they are interpreted by the wicked. If I consider offerings and service to those in need as hard or difficult, I guess that may be more of a reflection of me, than that of the doctrine itself.

"If, in the end, you have not chosen Jesus Christ, it will not matter what you have chosen." - Neal A. Maxwell

So, what does all of this have to do with healthcare and healing your body? I teach my patients (and personally believe) that all of the challenges we experience (physical as well as mental and emotional) are part of our spiritual journey. Christ suffered and atoned not only for our sins, but also for our illnesses, our broken bones, broken hearts, broken minds and broken spirits. As we truly come to Jesus, things can begin to change, heal and be renewed. As you get on this spiritual path - the one that requires serving and helping others (as you will be directed by that inner voice known as your conscience or the Light of Christ), things will begin to change for you. It requires true conversion, more than simply following a service-oriented checklist.


Dr. Kyle D. Christensen

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