Thursday, December 21, 2006

God is Love

During this Christmas season the word “love” has permeated my mind very often. One of the characteristics of God taught to us in 1 John 4:8, “God is love.” But what does this mean? Is part of God’s character literally “love”? Does he embody all that love could be? I am not sure, though it is certainly worth contemplating what “God is love” truly means. I would guess there are several meanings. However, what I do know is that Heavenly Father set the ultimate example of love: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (New Testament | John 3:16). I cannot imagine having to give up my first born. Furthermore, I cannot conceive what it would be like to give up my first born knowing beforehand how the Savior, Jesus Christ would suffer.

Since “God is love,” how does the “great commandment in the law” apply, which I treated earlier this month? How do we “love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind”? I think there are many ways we can express our love for him. One very telling way is described very plainly by the Apostle John: “If ye love me, keep my commandments: (New Testament | John 14:15). We have the opportunity to show God through our choices and our actions that we love him, or “ye shall know them by their fruits. Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit” (New Testament | Matthew 7:16 - 17).

President Ezra Taft Benson said in the April 1988 General Conference:

“To love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength is all-consuming and all-encompassing. It is no lukewarm endeavor. It is total commitment of our very being—physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually—to a love of the Lord.

The breadth, depth, and height of this love of God extend into every facet of one’s life. Our desires, be they spiritual or temporal, should be rooted in a love of the Lord. Our thoughts and affections should be centered on the Lord.”

The second great commandment is to love your neighbor. So how do we love our neighbor? Nephi, in the Book of Mormon taught: “Wherefore, the Lord God hath given a commandment that all men should have charity, which charity is love” (Book of Mormon | 2 Nephi 26:30). Furthermore, Moroni taught: “But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him” (Book of Mormon | Moroni 7:47).

It is my opinion that the next verse in Moroni tells us why the first two great commandments are so great. First, “my beloved brethren, pray unto the Father with all the energy of heart, that ye may be filled with this love, which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.” In other words, we must choose to take action, but not half heartedly, but with “all the energy of the heart” in prayer. Then, after we have shown our faith, we are “filled with this love . . . which he hath bestowed upon all who are true followers of his Son, Jesus Christ.” Then verse 48 continues with the most exciting part: “that ye may become the sons of God; that when he shall appear we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is; that we may have this hope; that we may be purified even as he is pure.” In other words we will be true followers of God, so much so that “we shall be like him.” If we are like God, then we will have attained some, if not all of his attributes, love being one of them.

President Gordon B. Hinckley wrote:

“Love is of the very essence of life. It is the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Yet it is more than the end of the rainbow. Love is at the beginning also, and from it springs the beauty that arches across the sky on a stormy day. Love is the security for which children weep, the desire of youth, the cement that binds marriage, and the smoothing oil that prevents devastating friction in the home; it is the peace of old age, the sunlight of hope shining through death. How rich are those who enjoy it in their associations with family, friends, church, and neighbors.”

This Christmas season is a wonderful time for us to remember to love our neighbors and to show charity, which is “the pure love of Christ.” May I submit to you that showing love through the same charity and service you show during this season as part of your daily life will make you become closer to God as you develop this Godly attribute. President Hinckley also wrote: “Love is the only force that can erase the differences between people.”

I know this is a true statement. I know that love can heal many wounds. If we have kindness and love filling our hearts, we will only desire to follow all of Heavenly Father’s commandments because we love him. Because we love our fellow man, we will only desire to serve them, and not to trespass against them. I know that through actively seeking to love more completely, marriages will be better. I know that by exhibiting greater love, bonds with children will be stronger. I know that showing our love for the Lord by following his commandments causes us to be filled with the Holy Ghost, the same Holy Ghost which testifies of all things true. I know that my Redeemer lives and loves me and I love him. I share this with you in the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

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