Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Checklist Approach to Gaining Eternal Life: Losing in an Effort to Find

A friend of mine once wrote the following, which I believe is profound and empowering:

It came like a flood over me the other day, and I don't have adequate words to express it. The idea is centered around Matthew 10:39:

He that findeth his life shall lose it: and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it.

Think about our efforts to complete our "checklist" and gain for ourselves eternal life as our efforts to find our life.

Ponder the question, "What is Christ's sake?" How could we "lose" our life (or desire for our personal reward) for this purpose that Jesus was promoting?

My major concept around this idea is that when we get caught up in the idea of a literal, physical (not exclusively mortal) reward we become largely self-centered and lose the "greater than ourselves" focus. It's like finally staking our claim on a cottage in the ideal community where our efforts to obtain our prize came at the expense of that ideal community as a whole. What we are effectively left with is a nice little cottage in the middle of a ghost town. It is only when we honestly don't care about earning a reward that we can focus with effectiveness on the important task at hand of Christ's purpose.
Is our desire to "earn" an eternal life in effect putting our reward or "life" ahead of Christ's purpose?

I don't believe there is any simple answer that can encompass the whole purpose of Christ; it is about our opportunity to continually gain ground in becoming more Godly, more loving, more selfless -- yet "selfless" is a complex topic in itself. Sometimes an action that looks self-serving can in fact be for the greater good of others. Self-sufficiency for example reduces the burden on others to provide for the poor. However, I do believe that when we focus on charity (the great commandment) and becoming more selfless in general, we find our way toward righteousness and becoming more Godly.

Where it all comes together for me is in the thought that the essence of selflessness has nothing to do with physical/material stuff. Selflessness is a spiritual ideal. Physical paths lead to physical rewards; spiritual paths lead to spiritual rewards. Of course, as mortals we exist in a physical world, so physical actions will play a part in everything we do. The key question is what are we seeking. If we are looking for some tangible reward at the end of our path we may be "finding" our life in the way where it is ultimately lost. If we can rise above the primary desire for personal gain (even eternal life), maybe we can make some progress toward divine love. 
After all isn't love the ultimate reward? Love isn't something that we can gain by seeking it, divorced from everything else. The only way to gain more love is first to share it.

I gave up years ago trying to build a life I wanted for myself as an individual. I have sacrificed a lot over the years for my wife and kids - and other pursuits that are not rewarding to me in any way other than my belief that I am a better person when I forget about myself a bit and focus on helping others.

The people I respect the most aren't the ones who accomplished some great individual achievement, even though I respect many of those achievements greatly. My heroes are the people who spend their lives helping others. To me, that is Gospel greatness.

For example, I love Mother Teresa - and my favorite modern prophet might be Thomas Monson. There are some things I wouldn't emulate about either of them, honestly, but I love both of their constant, untiring, unyielding focus on the poor, the lonely, the neglected. President Monson has been criticized by some members for his stories that can appear to be the same old, same old conference after conference after conference. Some people want the poetry of Neal A. Maxwell (which I loved and miss) or the theological proclamations of Bruce R. McConkie (which I liked or disliked, depending on the sermon), but I love President Monson's willingness to preach constantly the one thing that I believe is the absolute heart of the Gospel and not worry about being a mighty orator or theologian.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this again Ray. I know many families where an individual believes themselves to be living a life that will qualify them for the eternities, to the exclusion of good relationships with their family.The home teacher who has never missed a month's HT but divorced three times springs to mind.Tragic.