Friday, January 22, 2010

Loving Those Who Lose Faith

When we talk of those who have "lost faith", I never assume they have acted intentionally through malice, or succumbed to sin, or rejected the concept of prophets, or any other possibility. If they state one of those paths openly and are vitriolic in their approach, I will accept that as real. Otherwise, I will sit down, take the time to discuss and understand their journey and provide whatever advice or counsel or listening ear or sympathetic heart I can. I will try to understand them without pre-conceived assumptions and, if possible, help them find a way to hold onto a sliver of hope even if they can't find faith. If that is not possible, and they feel they must leave the Church, I will accept their decision as their own, maintain whatever level of interaction is possible and make sure they know I am still their friend regardless of their faith at the time.

If they want to talk religion, I will talk religion; if they want to play board games, I will play board games; if they want to talk politics but not religion, that is what we will do. If we have not had a relationship in which we could talk religion, I will not talk religion - unless our relationship changes enough to do so later. In that situation, I will look and pray for an opportunity to share my testimony and any spiritual insight I can share, but I will share only if I feel strongly and uniquely prompted to do so. In summary, I will do my best to respect their agency and their stated desires - unless they are acting in such a way that I feel others are in danger. Then, and only then, will I upbraid or chastise or preach without invitation or call to repentance.

In my individual callings, I might have occasion to modify that slightly, but that's how I try to handle the balance as an individual. If I'm going to make a mistake, I want that mistake to be on the side of compassion and charity and brotherhood, not the alternative.

This philosophy allows me to have many good and valuable friendships with people who can't be friends with other members - solely because those other members refuse to respect and accept my friends for who they are. They share my desire to see these friends embrace the Gospel but are unwilling / unable to wait for it to happen according to these friends' agency and the Lord's timetable. All too often , this unwillingness to "wait upon the Lord" drives my friends away and makes it very hard for others to reach them without defensiveness on their part.


jendoop said...

Having close family members who no longer embrace the church I have found this type of a approach to work well for me also. Instead of stressing over their salvation, and what my role in it is (it's between them and God, I don't have a role) I just love them. I usually leave church out of the conversation. Sometimes when they ask what is happening in my life I'll mention a new calling, or early morning seminary runs, but that's a fact of my life. Now that they see that I'm not going to preach repentance at every turn we enjoy our relationships much more.

I know their hearts, and God knows them even better. I trust that all will work out in the end because I believe in them and I believe in God. Letting someone know you love them is the most important thing. The Savior taught us that, "Love they neighbor as thyself".

Anonymous said...

'Love and I had the wit to win,we drew a circle that took him in' (sorry,don't know who that's by).

It can be so very hard to relax into love,and to trust Heavenly Father will bring to pass his work in the lives of those we love-and that sometimes that needs to happen without us,for what ever reason.I find that a hard won position,and I find it very hard when others suggest that we should be more judgemental,which is what i heard in one of the talks from general conference.It really jarred(was it bro Oaks?).Often we can unite in our desire to improve our relationships,sometimes that just has to be a matter of earnest prayer to enable us to love more wholly.Thanks for sharing jen and papa,so good to know we are not alone in taking this approach, as it can often feel that way.

Patty said...

We live in a time of instant gratification and I think this shows in many people's attitudes towards those who aren't showing visible progress towards full activity in the church. This was a good reminder.

The Clayton Clan said...

Thank you.