Seated with His disciples shortly before the end of His mortal ministry, Jesus charged, “[L]ove one another; as I have loved you,” saying, “By this shall man know that ye are my disciples” (John 13:34-35). Christ’s life was an unparalleled demonstration of transcendent love. His love defined Him during His mortal life, and it continues to define Him and all that He does. In the end, He expects that same love to define each of us as we take steps to follow His example and teachings. In my own continuing efforts to develop and to feel that Christlike love, I have often found that I have more success at some times than at others; nevertheless, I’ve often kept the words of Lorin F. Wheelwright’s hymn, “O Love That Glorifies the Son,” in mind as I strive to understand and develop that love which the Apostle Paul called “a more excellent way” (I Corinthians 12:31).
O love that glorifies the Son, O love that says, “Thy will be done!”
The Book of Mormon prophet Alma explained that, in order for the Savior to accomplish His saving mission, He suffered “pains and afflictions and temptations of every kind” (Alma 7:11). The prophet Isaiah taught, “[H]e was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isaiah 53:5). While He went about healing and lifting, teaching and blessing, Jesus confronted those who rather injured and depressed, deceived and condemned. He was prosecuted and persecuted by religious officials who challenged His authority to teach and His right to heal. They denied His claim to divinity and charged Him with blasphemy, ultimately taking Him to Calvary’s cross. At one point, pressed by the awful weight of the sorrows and sins of all creation, Christ called out, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me.” Without a moment’s hesitation, though, He added, “[N]evertheless not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).
In such agony that His “sweat was as it were great drops of blood falling down to the ground” (Luke 22:44), Christ endured the horrors of His suffering willingly out of the infinite love that He has for each and all of us. He uttered that sublime nevertheless because He knew that He had come into the world so “that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). He loved us enough to suffer whatever was necessary so that we could one day have a place at His side in His Father’s “many mansions” (John 14:2). Surely, greater love hath no man than this (John 15:13)!
O love that binds our family…Pure love that lasts eternally…
In 1995, the First Presidency and the Council of the Twelve Apostles of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints issued a statement entitled “The Family: A Proclamation to the World” in which they explained that “the family is central to the Creator’s plan for the eternal destiny of His children.” Even—or especially—in family life, the Savior’s incomparable love is central to harmony and happiness. Jesus’ life was given to teaching all who would hear the truths and principles that ensure peace and joy for the individual as well as for the family, which is central to the Creator’s plan. The Proclamation explains: “Happiness in family life is most likely to be achieved when founded upon the teachings of the Lord Jesus Christ. Successful marriages and families are established and maintained on principles of faith, prayer, repentance, forgiveness, respect, love, compassion, work, and wholesome recreational activities.” When each member of a family strives to develop Christlike love for others and seeks to be near to the Lord, all the members of that family cannot help but grow closer to one another. Because of the great blessings made possible through Christ’s loving sacrifice, “The divine plan of happiness enables family relationships to be perpetuated beyond the grave,” allowing the love we begin to develop now to continue and to grow forever in God’s presence.
O love that overcomes defeat, O love that turns the bitter sweet…
Of course, to say that Christ’s love has paved the way for our salvation is not to say that we will not encounter bumps and upsets along the way, whether they come as a result of our own foolish actions or the actions of others. However, Christ’s love is the power whereby we can overcome frustrations and defeats, the power whereby our most exquisite and bitter pains can be replaced with sweet, exquisite joy (Alma 36:21). In few places is this truth more readily apparent than in the Biblical account of Jesus’ treatment of a woman who had been caught in the act of adultery by the religious authorities of the day. The priests and scribes stood before the Savior and said of the woman, “Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” (John 8:5). With the terrified woman and the terrible authorities before Him, Jesus said simply, “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her” (John 8:7). Like frost beneath the morning sun, the authorities left the scene of their supposed justice. Then, Jesus approached the woman:
[H]e said unto her, Woman, where are those thine accusers? Hath no man condemned thee? She said, No man, Lord. And Jesus said unto her, Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more. (John 8:10-11)
Because His love allowed Him to see the worth of the woman beneath the tarnish of her sin, the Savior was able to defuse the deadly self-righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees and to give the woman a second chance—a chance to go and to sin no more.
Speaking of such love, Thomas S. Monson, God’s prophet on the earth today, said:
I consider charity—or “the pure love of Christ”—to be the opposite of criticism and judging. In speaking of charity, I do not at this moment have in mind the relief of the suffering through the giving of our substance. That, of course, is necessary and proper. Tonight, however, I have in mind the charity that manifests itself when we are tolerant of others and lenient toward their actions, the kind of charity that forgives, the kind of charity that is patient.
I have in mind the charity that impels us to be sympathetic, compassionate, and merciful, not only in times of sickness and affliction and distress but also in times of weakness or error on the part of others.
How encouraging it is to know that the Lord will, rather than condemn us for our mistakes, help us to overcome them and to become better! What a serious responsibility it is, too, to treat others with that same care and tolerance. True charity, President Monson explained, “is having patience with someone who has let us down…. It is accepting weaknesses and shortcomings. It is accepting people as they truly are. It is looking beyond physical appearances to attributes that will not dim through time.” It is the love that sees a person’s potential and not their current weakness, the love that motivates us to encourage others to be their best selves because we know what they can be. It is the love by which Christ shows us who we truly are.
O Lord, give me the will to mend…O Lord, change me from foe to friend…
Ultimately, Christ sacrificed His life in love not just for the right to comfort us when we’re blue, but to make it possible for us to change and to become holier beings. He paid the price of our sins so that we could overcome them and become qualified to return to dwell in heaven forever. It is that love which makes forgiveness possible and which makes it sweet. To illustrate, the Book of Mormon tells of a people that was characterized by violence and war. When they were acquainted with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, they felt the love of God and recognized the ennobling truths of the gospel, and they did all they could to abandon their earlier tendencies to violence. After they embraced the gospel and the missionaries who had brought it to them, their king stood before the people and said:
I also thank my God, yea, my great God, that he hath granted unto us that we might repent of these things, and also that he hath forgiven us of those our many sins and murders which we have committed, and taken away the guilt from our hearts through the merits of his Son…. Oh, how merciful is our God! And now behold, since it has been as much as we could do to get our stains taken away from us, and our swords are made bright, let us hide them away that they may be kept bright, as a testimony to our God at the last day…that we have not stained our swords in the blood of our brethren since he imparted his word unto us and has made us clean thereby. (Alma 24:10, 15)
By embracing the gospel, they opened themselves to the love of Christ, and it changed them, purging from them their warlike nature and filling them with an unyielding desire to do good continually. Their change was so great that they became close friends and allies as much to the enemies they had once fought in war as to the God they had once rejected and ignored. As a result, they enjoyed the love and mercy of the Lord as unfailing blessings for the rest of their days.
Come, fill my soul today; Come, fill my soul today.
Thus knowing of the eternal blessings, comfort, and transformation that can come about when we seek and emulate the love of Christ in our lives, it falls to us to do everything we can to act on what we know. President Monson taught, “There is a serious need for the charity that gives attention to those who are unnoticed, hope to those who are discouraged, aid to those who are afflicted. True charity is love in action. The need for charity is everywhere.” Without confirming action, our love is so much empty feeling, but, when we act on the love we feel, it becomes a power for good as much in our lives as in the lives of those we love. As the late President Howard W. Hunter taught:
The Savior has commanded us to love one another as he has loved us; to clothe ourselves “with the bond of charity,” as he so clothed himself. We are called upon to purify our inner feelings, to change our hearts, to make our outward actions and appearance conform to what we say we believe and feel inside. We are to be true disciples of Christ…. We need to extend the hand of friendship. We need to be kinder, more gentle, more forgiving, and slower to anger. We need to love one another with the pure love of Christ.
I know that Jesus Christ’s love for us is real, and I know that He expects us to learn to love as He loves. Through His infinite love, He saved the world from sin and death; through our efforts to emulate His infinite love, we can surely save our worlds from sorrow and despair. As we strive to love and to demonstrate that love in selfless acts of service, we will know that we are loved. We will know that we can succeed. “Charity,” the Apostle Paul taught, “never faileth” (I Corinthians 13:8); thus, we, possessed of charity, can be confident that we will, ultimately, triumph in Christ over all our failures. That is the great promise of Christ’s enduring love.