“My job (or life) would be much easier if I didn’t have to deal with people.”
I’m sure we have all heard that sentiment expressed. Perhaps we have thought or verbalized it ourselves. Whether at work, school or in our families, those who can add such joy and purpose to our lives can also be the source of immeasurable frustration and pain.
Many of us have seen friendships and families struggle as choices made by one party have caused confusion and disappointment to others. Such events arise in many contexts, but often involve a conflict in values.
Dallin H. Oaks, a counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, has spoken about such conflicts in a religious context. In a talk titled “Love and Law,” he described the commandments of God as the law. Too many people, he said, “insist on the law in an unloving way.”
In families where obedience to the law is taught and expected, the choice of a family member to disregard or violate the law can devastate other family members. Harsh words and actions may follow.
In that case, Oaks points out, it is important to remember the great commandment that we love one another. Though we may be torn by the apparent rejection of the law by a family member or friend, we can nevertheless choose to love them.
A great example of loving a family member who chooses another path is found in the Parable of the Prodigal Son. While there are many lessons found in this parable, the father’s unfailing love and hope for his son, despite the son’s flouting, if you will, of his family’s values, has always stood out.
President Oaks encourages us not only to keep loving those whose choices concern us, but to try to understand them. Don’t start off by arguing with people about choices, he counseled, but ask questions. Where are you coming from? What are your basic values? What do you want to accomplish? Different points of view, ways of thinking, and diversity in values and culture both enrich and benefit us.
In return we should share with them our desire to follow the commandments and the example of Jesus Christ. If we choose to emulate Christ, then we need to love others. We also need to remember that Christ’s admonition to love one another does not end there, but continues “as I have loved you ... ” John 13:34
The question that follows is how did Christ love? Demonstrating great concern for the individual, he reached out to the leper, the blind, the outcast and others shunned by society.
“If Christ is our role model,” President Oaks says, “we should always reach out to include everyone.” Love should be unconditional.
Glenna M. Christensen is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. The Idaho Statesman’s weekly faith column features a rotation of writers from many different faiths and perspectives.