I don't see coincidences as much as loving guidance and tender mercies these days. I woke up a few mornings ago, determined to give more time to my relationship with God as I had let the busyness of life once again turn those efforts into quick and perfunctory actions. The tender mercy came when a scripture I read in the place I happened to be, led me to ask a random question, "why is it always stated 'the law and the prophets'?" which led me to type in that phrase in the search engine of gospelink.com (my favorite site these days). The first search result that I clicked on happened to have not much to do with my question, but touched me so profoundly that I actually copied by hand, four pages of the selection in my dragonfly journal. That would be a record. It just didn't feel right to stop until then, it was all so relevant and I wanted to have it handy to soak into my skin for days and weeks and months to come. As the days go by, it continues to apply in varying ways to my life, but also to the culture and world I find myself living in. I keep feeling like posting it here as the next in my series of "Words That Move Me," but decided there is nothing I can or should say about it as that would muddy application for others. So, I'll just share it. You're welcome to find this a nice quote but not be sure why I would be so moved by it. You're also welcome to heartily disagree. Timing is everything. At this time in my life, I find it profound and a perfect capstone to the theme of most of my previous posts.
~ Neal A. Maxwell, Notwithstanding My Weakness, pgs. 24-28The first commandment does not read,
"Thou shalt love the Lord thy God as thyself." This would be both too little and the wrong kind of love. Nor does the second commandment read, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor with all thy heart, mind, soul, and strength." This would be neighbor worship.Whereas our Perfect Father can be trusted with our bestowal of all our devotion of heart, mind, soul, and strength, we cannot. Nor can our neighbor. Moreover, only when proper love of God comes first can our love of self and neighbor be safely shaped and nurtured.Colonial clergyman Jonathan Edwards said, in effect, "What was wrong with believers and unbelievers in general... was that they had little ideas about a little God." True religion brings us to "a loving of God rather than a believing that one ought to love Him, active concern for the neighbor rather than acceptance of this statement that love of neighbor is very good," which makes all the difference in the world. (Christian Ethics, New York: Ronald Press, 1955, pp. 383, 385.)The personality of God involves the balanced perfection of His attributes, which makes Him worthy of worship and adoration. God can safely have absolute power because He also has absolute love and because He is perfect in His judgment. He can give His perfect mercy full play because He is also perfect in His justice. But no such perfection or balance exists either in us or in our neighbors. Thus the extension of our genuine esteem to our neighbors is different in kind and not just degree from that total love we are told to develop for God.We could, of course, never truly keep the first commandment without also keeping the second commandment. But the second commandment flows from the first commandment, and all the other commandments are steppingstones running from the two great commandments.Besides, how can one really love and serve his neighbor if he ignores the divinely designed purpose of the universe? How can we fully serve our neighbor if we do not acknowledge who our neighbor really is? In a day when the ecological needs of the snail darter are carefully considered, do we really suppose we can truly serve others if we ignore the everlasting ecology of which they are a part?Thus our relationship with God is clearly the central relationship on which all other relationships hang. This reality is especially important in today's world wherein many either ignore the Fatherhood of God altogether or subordinate it to a simulated and secular brotherhood of man—and thus fail at both relationships.In our foolishness and weakness, it is the beginning of both wisdom and strength to understand the obligations and the implications of the first commandment, though, as we come closer to Him, our weaknesses come to light, sometimes painfully. To remain in darkness is to fail to know Him and ourselves! Can there be a more serious and disabling deprivation? Of our life in His universe, as George MacDonald counseled, "The instant a soul moves counter to the will of its prime mover, the universe is its prison." (Life Essential, Wheaton, Ill.: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1974, p. 100.)To put God in any place other than first is to put down our own eternal interests. There can be demonstrated in our lives (and in so many other ways) the terrible tyranny of secondary and thirdly things.It is not just the tyranny of trivia, that problem is vexing but manageable. It is, rather, the chronic pattern in which we misread our primary purposes on this planet, misspend our precious time, misappropriate our needed talents and means—behaving so parochially in the face of the great galactic realities of "things as they really are." (Jacob 4:13.) It is this constant inversion that demeans us, diminishes our joy, and locks us into being far less than we might become. Even when we repent, we still cannot recycle the time lost nor do retroactively the good deeds that might have been.Such consequences stem from our basic failure to put first things first, specifically our relationship with God. Only when that relationship is in order do we see other things clearly. Until then, like the patient belatedly being tested for eyeglasses, we do not even realize what we have been missing. So it is when we begin to see with the eye of faith.Perhaps the singular reference to the eye of faith, rather than eyes of faith, is to stress that our eye should be single to the glory of God "one eye,... one faith, and one baptism," which brings unity and love. (Mosiah 18:21.) Jesus taught that "the light of the body is the eye," and that if our eye is single we will be "full of light." (3 Nephi 13:22.) As with the natural eye, the eye of faith lets in the light of the Lord; we do not make light ourselves but, rather, use His!...Thus our present view of things—whether dark and dim or bright and full—fashions, irrevocably, our future. And our view of things turns on our views of Christ and of our Heavenly Father. (Alma 27:28.)In a world in which more and more people ignore the first commandment and live "without God in the world," we see in those lives a fatal separation from reality. First of all, to live "without God in the world" is, said Alma, a condition "contrary to the nature of happiness." (Alma 41:11.) Having gone wrong as to the first commandment, everything else is then askew, including relationships with others. As for such souls, their mortal lives are "no more than a night in a second-class hotel." (Saint Teresa of Avila.)A secularized second commandment is no substitute for the real thing. It was Dostoevsky who warned (in a grim foreshadowing of the secular state) that "love toward men... without belief in God, very naturally leads to the greatest coercion over men and turns their lives completely into hell on earth." Those who rule and govern without any real allegiance to God may use the rhetoric of serving "the people," but they will end up doing wrong things for and to "the people." Whether because of ignorance or malice, such individuals will misread mankind's identity or purpose, and this misreading inevitably means misery.