Saturday, August 16, 2014

We Can't Preach the Gospel in Antagonistic Ways and Truly Love Others

We have two competing commandments - or at least it appears that way on the surface. 

The greatest one is, “Love God and love thy neighbor as thyself,” “Love one another,” or any number of ways to phrase it. The other one is, “Preach the Gospel.” Christ said that the world would hate those who represent him, but he didn’t say that meant we should preach in such a way as to alienate automatically by our own words and actions. He generally didn’t do that (except when condemning hypocrites and the Pharisees, primarily), and neither should we. 

We can fulfill the command to preach the Gospel as well as the command to love others, but we can't do both if we approach preaching with an antagonistic spirit.  In that light, I believe strongly that we need to stop framing so much of our discourse in battle terms - us vs. others, generally, and, more specifically, us vs. "the world".  We need to stop blaming others for issues for which they are not responsible (like, for example, blaming the homosexual population for the deterioration of traditional marriage, which is the fault of the heterosexual population). 

We need to preach what we believe (including real repentance), but we need to do so from a position of love - and we can't say we "love the sinner" while using language that is not conducive to love (or in language that, as Pres. Uchtdorf said, essentially judges others for sinning differently than we do).  We can't preach repentance exclusively to others, particularly in detail; we need to preach the Gospel (including the correct principle of repentance) to ALL, including and especially to ourselves. 

At the most basic level, it's not us vs. them; rather, it's me vs. me - and us WITH them.  We can work to build up the kingdom of God on Earth, but it won't happen (won't really be the kingdom of God) if we aren't working in such a way that we simultaneously are establishing Zion - and Zion is based on a foundation of real charity. 


less mehzzed up said...

This is so true. I suppose part of the inherent conflict lies in the idea that Mormons belong to the "only true church" on the earth. We need to be careful about the way we internalize this idea. We are indeed blessed to be a part the restored the gospel; but when arrogance or even the feeling that we just plain know more than everybody else creeps in to our soul--we are in danger of becoming off-putting. Not only to others, but I think, to the Spirit as well.

In the past year or so I am realizing just how much I can learn about love and hope from my friends of other faiths. It's impossible to learn when we think we already know it all. And it's tough to be a good friend to those who believe differently when we think we have nothing to learn. Interesting post. Thanks again.

Anonymous said...

This organisational arrogance was the main stumbling block to my husband's baptism-he got there in the end but kind of in spite of his experience at church.We're both much more comfortable with the way the missionaries teach these days,and with the tone that is set in general conference.It was particularly difficult when he was ward mission leader -for seven years.Being a naturally humble man this really did not gel with the missionary program at the time.Hated it,and foreign to our culture.We both feel it held up the church's progress in the UK,partucularly as there is cultural stereotype of Americans as arrogant.Hopefully the church is moving forward now,and a little less simplistic in our world view.

Anonymous said...

The command to preach the Gospel in the New Testament didn't involve a lot of the things that the Mormons have put into it. Preaching the Gospel was intended to bring people into a relationship with Christ, in order to experience the liberty that comes with that. Preaching the Gospel for Mormons means bringing people under the bondage of a law administered by an organization which claims the power to take away one's exaltation through a legal proceeding. So,good luck reconciling those two commandments.

symphonyofdissent said...

We should preach in a language I love and tolerance, but we cannot lose sight of the divine truths of the restored gospel such as the fact that we are members of the only true and living church and the only
church where the priesthood can be found.

Papa D said...

lm, the belief that we have nothing to learn is NOT part of our pure theology (and, in fact, it is opposed to our pure theology), but you are right that it is too prevalent among us.

Anon1, I have seen a marked change in much of our rhetoric over the last couple of decades from many of the top leaders, but it still is there in spades with others (and with specific issues).

Anon2, I am an active, faithful, temple-attending Mormon. I understand that issue you mention in your comment, but the two are NOT irreconcilable - and I have seen them reconciled beautifully thousands of times in my life by the LDS Church itself and, even more so, by many, many members. I will leave your comment in place as written, but I will delete any more comments that are nothing but broad attacks on the LDS Church.

Papa D said...

symphony, I agree that we don't need to run from our unique claims - but we can remain true to our theology without being antagonistic jerks about it. That, at heart, is my main point.

David said...

So true.