Jesus spoke of two great commandments and the focus of my recent thoughts was the second commandment which is like unto the first: love thy neighbor as yourself. (Matt 24:39)
One of Jesus’ most powerful teachings was of the king who rewarded a servant who did good to others and was told, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.” (Matt. 25:40)
If we are to build upon the rock of Christ, we must live by Jesus’ words, “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;”
We speak of certain people as being “Christlike” which causes us to compare them with others who may not appear “Christlike.” But if Christ the king weights the impact of our judgments equally between the greatest or “the least of these” then we may want to rethink any negativity we project onto another person.
Alma and the sons of Mosiah were driven by love to reach out to their wicked and murderous brethren when the entire Nephite society would have rather seen them destroyed rather than risk loving them.
This is why God himself had to condescend to be born and and live among us. He was despised and rejected in one of the most horrifying ways imaginable.
If this is how mankind will treat their own God, then how can they possibly treat themselves any better?
Perhaps the baseline for a saint isn’t how well they treat their God, but how they treat their enemies. Jesus already said it is a given to treat people you like nicely, that’s easy, even the ‘bad guys’ do that. (Matt. 5:46-47)
Loving your enemies is not loving or approving of their actions which may very well be the darkest hue of evil. It is loving the part of them that is divine, that is a child of a perfect and glorified Father and Mother that once resisted the adversary and claimed victory by coming to the same earth as you and I.
There is a way to become like Alma and the sons of Mosiah who trembled at the thought that any human soul should perish, even the worst of the worst.
Now they were desirous that salvation should be declared to every creature, for they could not bear that any human soul should perish; yea, even the very thoughts that any soul should endure endless torment did cause them to quake and tremble.
And thus did the Spirit of the Lord work upon them, for they were the very vilest of sinners. And the Lord saw fit in his infinite mercy to spare them; nevertheless they suffered much anguish of soul because of their iniquities, suffering much and fearing that they should be cast off forever.Mosiah 28:3-4
We look to Alma and the sons of Mosiah as heroes, deeply spiritual men to look up to as role models. Yet, these men who were the self-confessed “very vilest of sinners” may have disgusted and infuriated us during their time of apostasy.
The angel of the Lord appeared to Alma and the sons of Mosiah, initiating their miraculous conversion which, in turn, opened the way of salvation to thousands of others.
This angel revealed what the catalyst was for this phenomenal chain of events at the center of the Book of Mormon:
Behold, the Lord hath heard the prayers of his people, and also the prayers of his servant, Alma, who is thy father; for he has prayed with much faith concerning thee that thou mightest be brought to the knowledge of the truth; therefore, for this purpose have I come to convince thee of the power and authority of God, that the prayers of his servants might be answered according to their faith.Mosiah 27:14
Rather than despising these vile sinners, the Nephite people were praying for them because God had to honor the faith of his people. Imagine if they chose to hate and shun Alma and his brethren instead.
God came among men to show that each of us, like him, are from a divine origin as well. The glory within us all is disguised by flesh and outward appearance.
Imagine if we were able to look at our friends and our perceived enemies and see Jesus.
The media and political parties seek to turn us against each other for their own power and gain like the Gadianton robbers of the past.
Engaging in their contention is not the way of a saint.
What if we changed how we engaged with people especially on social media platforms and in our conversations? What if we refused to engage in the contention and instead became peacemakers who challenge the darkness with light?
Those who do evil need our prayers and it is necessary for us to develop the capacity to pray for them.
Everything Jesus taught challenges the natural man and this is no exception.
One may think that it is difficult to feel love for those who seem to be attacking us, but love is not a feeling. Love is the result of a conscious choice to sacrifice in behalf of another. Love is only present when something has been placed on the altar.
Just as Abraham was reluctant to place Isaac upon the altar, but did so anyway because of the larger importance of honoring God, we too can place our worldly desires, the frame of mind sold to us by the media, or the praise we get from joining in the contention on the altar of God.
It is not necessary to feel anything positive for our enemies before we choose to love them and pray for them. The act of doing so is where the change comes in our own hearts.