The Love of God - Elder D. Todd Christofferson
What is love?
The world would define it as money, success, possessions, unconditional, tolerance no matter what, and something to be earned. In the world, love is fickle and easily withdrawn when mistakes or imperfections are detected. There is also a very strong “love yourself” mentality out there, a belief that you don’t need anyone but yourself to feel loved.
Compare that to how the Lord defines love. Elder Christofferson uses the following words: profound, perfect, all-embracing, universal, pure, infinite, constant, and undying. Throughout the talk, he also speaks about God’s redeeming love. It is His redeeming love that makes all the difference. He says, “[These] philosophies ‘justify in committing a little sin’ or even a lot fo sin, but none can offer redemption. That comes only through the blood of the Lamb.”
If the world defines love as unconditional, then we must ask ourselves, “Is God’s love conditional?” In an article written in February of 2003, then Elder Russell M. Nelson wrote, “While divine love can be called perfect, infinite, enduring, and universal, it cannot correctly be characterized as unconditional.” This has caused quite a bit of cognitive dissonance in many minds and hearts. “But I thought God loved me just as I am?” He does! But, as Elder Christofferson points out, “Because God’s love is all-embracing, some speak of it as ‘unconditional,’ and in their minds they may project that thought to mean that God’s blessings are ‘unconditional’ and that salvation is ‘unconditional.’ They are not….He cannot take any of us into His kingdom just as we are…Our sins must first be resolved.”
On Conditions of Repentance
Reading the two following scriptures caused me to pause and ask: Is the Lord’s redemptive power reliant on my repentance?
Helaman 5:10-12 “…for [Amulek] said uni to [Zeezrom] that the Lord surely should come to redeem his people, but that he should not come to redeem them in their sins, but to redeem them from their sins. And he hath power given unto him from the Father to redeem them form their sins because of repentance…” (italics added)
Alma 42:13 “Therefore, according to justice, the plan of redemption a could not be brought about, only on conditions of repentance of men in this probationary state, yea, this preparatory state…” (italics added)
If not for the conditions of repentance, the plan of redemption would not work. Without the Atonement there would be no mercy (see Alma 42), but without repentance there would be no redemption. I interpret that to mean that God’s power to redeem in contingent upon our choice to repent! I might not like to say that we limit God’s power, per say, but it looks like His power cannot be enacted without our choosing Him.
Elder Christofferson continues, “Because They love you, They do not want to leave you ‘just as you are.’…Because They love you, They want you to repent because that is the path to happiness. But it is your choice—They honor your agency.” One thing we know for sure is that God cannot force us to Heaven. That was Satan’s plan. His power to save requires us to repent!
Again where the world preaches loving others in their sins, we know that the Lord cannot allow the least degree of sin in His kingdom. However, we as members of the Church also need to be careful about giving into toxic perfectionism. Elder Christofferson reminds us, “Ours is not a religion of rationalization nor a religion of perfectionism but a religion of redemption — redemption through Jesus Christ.” I see this as a continuum:
When we combine our personal power with God’s infinite power, that is when Christ’s redemptive love can work in our lives! And then, “Their principal expectation of us is that we also love.” In an earlier talk from 2013, Elder Christofferson teaches, “Inasmuch as we follow Christ, we seek to participate in and further His redemptive work.” What does this redeeming love look like in our lives? How do we participate in the Lord’s redemptive work?
Our Redemptive Love
Elder Christofferson shared an example from Joy D. Jones, where she and her husband began to serve with God in mind rather than trusting in their own ability to love. I also think of the sons of Mosiah. After causing much pain and chaos among the people, Alma the Younger and his friends experience the redemptive love of the Savior. After much repentance they became “instruments in the hands of God in brining many to the knowledge of the truth, yea, to the knowledge of their Redeemer.” And they wanted to do more! “Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish…and it came to pass that they did plead with their father many days that they might go up to the land of Nephi (Mosiah 27:35-36; 28:3-5).”
With the love of God in our hearts there becomes a desire to show that same redemptive love to others. With that love of God in our hearts, “ye will not have a mind to injure one another but to live peaceably…and ye will not suffer your children that they go hungry, or naked; neither will ye suffer that they transgress teh laws of God, and fight and quarrel one with another’s…and also ye yourselves will succor those that stand in need of succor (see Mosiah 4:11-16).”
Elder Christofferson states, “In acknowledging that God loves us perfectly, we each might ask, ‘How well do I love God? Can He rely on my love as I rely on His?’ Would it not be a worthy aspiration to live so that God can love us not just in spite of our failings but also because of what we are becoming?”
Psychologist Erich Fromm believes, “Love is the active concern for the life and growth of that which we love (emphasis added).” Once again, God does not want to leave us where we are, His greatest desire is for us to live with Him. Is His mission not “to bring to pass the immortality and eternal life of man?” If He is to accomplish His mission, we must do our part and choose Him! “Herein is my father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.” Our show of redemptive love to God’s children, adds to His glory! Then, He can more abundantly bless and love us!
THIS is Redemptive Love — that Christ received a mortal body, He suffered and He died for me. He sacrificed His life that He might “draw all men unto him (3 Nephi 27:14).” He will draw me in, not force me in. Is it not then within my power to draw near to Him? “We love Him because He first loved us (1 John 4:8).” And oh, what a love!
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”Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hat prepared for them that love him.”
1 Corinthians 2:9