Introduction – To Think More Specifically of Christ
By Linda and Richard Eyre
Is Jesus Christ the perfect ideal or the impossible ideal?
Is knowing more about the Savior the same thing as knowing him better?
Can finite, limited, imperfect man ever comprehend any aspect of infinite, unlimited, perfect God?
Should familiarity be the core of our thinking about Christ (since he is our brother) or should awe (since he is our God).
There are so many questions to ask about Christ, and all of them – if asked in the spirit – draw us closer to him.
There is no time that is not a good time to think of him, but perhaps the best time is while we renew our covenants with him and to him during the sacrament of the Lord’s Supper.
How do we approach this most important of all thought? Casually? Without preparation? Mechanically routinely thinking the same rote thoughts each Sunday?
In this column, we will try to provide some guidelines and some ideas as well as some answers. The purpose of this column (which will appear every Friday to prepare us with Sunday for the sacrament) is to help us deepen the most important relationship of eternity our love of Christ.
Coming to know a person is like the careful study of an intricate and beautiful diamond. As we see into one facet, others are illuminated and made clear, thus, gradually, one facet at a time, we come to appreciate and love the whole man.
One Sunday afternoon we were sitting in church, observing people as they received the sacrament. What thoughts are happening behind these faces, we wondered? Every week, fifty times a year, we partake of these emblems and covenant to remember Christ, to strive to know him, and to follow him.
We watched the faces. Some were hard to read, but we could see the thoughts behind some. Some weren’t thinking about Jesus Christ at all, and some were thinking the same thing about him that they thought every week (a “vain repetition”?). Some (many?) were trying to remember someone they never knew (at least not in this life).
We each began to think about ourselves individually. How about me? How do I use these several sacred moments which are set aside for us to “always remember him?” Do I know enough to remember? If I were remembering my own father twice a week, I’d think of so much – things he said, ways he looked, how he did things — because I knew him. I didn’t know my father only as words on a page: I knew him.
Do I observe this sacrament properly? Do I derive from it the tremendous blessings it is designed to give? I begin to realize that the purpose of the sacrament is the same as the purpose of life: “And this is life eternal, that they might know, Jesus Christ.” My initial observation had now turned into a worry a personal worry about me.
We decided that we would study and pray intently about our Lord that we would make the attempt to know him as a great friend. We decided that each Sunday we would remember, and focus, and ponder, and know one real aspect of who he was. We decided to ponder a new aspect each week for a year with the hope that, by the end of the year, we could begin “to always remember him.”
One Facet at a Time
The process of writing this column was a process of striving to think about one new facet of the Savior each time we partook of the sacrament. In the spirit of that special covenant time, we found that things did come to our minds special things, some of which can be only suggested through written words. Each of the forty-eight weekly columns that will follow is one facet each intended to be a “thought-trigger” to accelerate the mind to the speed where the spirit can take over during the sacrament time.
We are told, by scripture and by symbol, that the sacrament is a time to remember Christ’s sacrifice for us. “The body bruised, the lifeblood shed, a sinless ransom for our sake.” We are told and retold the same thing through the scriptural sacrament prayers. We are committed to witness unto God that we will keep his commandments and that we will always remember him.
As with so much sacred scripture, that last phrase has at least two clear meanings:
1. We will remember and be aware of his hand in all things. (Scripture tells us that only two things offend God: not obeying his commandments and not confessing his hand in all things.)
2. We will remember his life and teachings and will model our lives after his.
It is the second meaning with which this column deals — the process of starting to know him in a real enough way that we begin to have a friend to remember.
We feel that if, in addition to remembering his sacrifice and recommitting ourselves each week, we could just focus each week on a separate aspect of who Christ was and what he was, by the year’s end we would have a forty-eight-facet gem of great value such value that we would perhaps start to know him as our friend.
A small child once found one of his father‘s complex jigsaw puzzles, spread out the pieces, and started trying to put it together. The father passed through and warned, “You won‘t be able to do that one, Jimmy. It’s a picture of a technical drawing, an engineering plan. You won‘t know what goes where.”
Fifteen minutes later when the father returned, the puzzle was completely put together. His reaction was one of delight mixed with puzzlement: of course his son was smart, but how did he do it?
“Well, Dad, I turned the pieces over, and there was a picture of a man on the other side. I just put the man together and turned the puzzle back over, and the plan was together.”
The gospel, the commandments, the Church, the Lord’s plan can seem large and complicated and “too much” until we learn that knowing Christ is knowing the gospel.
The gospel is totally fulfilled and exemplified and focused in him. Unlike any other leader in any other era in any other cause, he was (and is) all that he taught.
The Purpose of Life
Scripture captures the deepest goal of life’s experience when it tells us that the purpose of life eternal is to know God and Jesus Christ. Or is it more important to love God, for is not this the “first and great commandment”? Should we be more interested in knowing or loving? Or is being the key working toward the perfection of being like him? John 17:3, Matthew 22:37, and Matthew 5:48 seem to define life‘s objectives:
- to know Christ,
- to love Christ,
- to be like Christ.
Are there three objectives? Or only one? Can we ever know him without loving him? Can we ever love him without the deepest desire to be more like him? Can we ever improve and strive to follow him without knowing him better and loving him more?
The scriptures are three ways of saying one thing, and that one thing is the most important thing in life.
The Perfect Example
This is not a column on the miracles of Christ, or on his history, or on his ministry, or even on his teachings and gospel. It is a small but honest attempt to start to know his personality and character, to know him as he commanded us to, to know him as a person and as a brother. For although he is incomparably superior, he is our brother. And though his life and love achieve perfection, he has asked us to live and love as he did.
We know and associate most of history’s “great men” with the armies they led, the books they wrote, the wide travels they made, the wealth and splendor of their personal power, or the number of people they employed. But Jesus Christ neither pursued nor accomplished any of these.
Because he did one thing far more influential and important than all of these: he lived a perfect life. His message, which will never be forgotten and which will never fail, was in who he was. Example is the greatest teacher. Perfect example is the perfect teacher.
Getting to Know Someone
As we think of our closest friends and as we meditate upon the means by which we came to know them as well as we do, we realize that it was a piecemeal process. One day (not consciously) we came to appreciate one quality about a friend. Then there was the day we learned an additional side of his character.
Our greatest friend has told us that we may know him in a similar way. It can be a building process; each week the partaking of the sacrament can be a time to cut a new facet on the gem of our knowledge of him.
I (Richard) remember once asking Linda just why it was that one of her friends had been so especially close to her for so long. She said, “I guess because she is with me so much and she is so dependable and predictable.”
How well, then, can we come to know Christ, who can always be with us, and whose perfection makes him ultimately predictable?
The notion of this column is that Sunday can be a time when thoughts are focused on Jesus Christ — a time, each week, when one facet of the Savior is pondered and prayed upon. Each current column, well-read, and well-thought on Friday when it comes out in Meridian or in the early Sabbath, can prepare us to go to church hungry for the sacrament’s spiritual food, anxious, in the sacrament’s special spirit, to savor and think about a specific segment of our elder brother’s perfect character and to recommit our lives to him.
In scripture, every commandment is related to a blessing, every challenge has a promise, every admonition carries a reward. The most eternal, most encompassing commandment/challenge/admonition of all is to know Jesus Christ — and it carries with it the greatest blessings/promises/rewards:
1. That we will have life eternal (John 17:3).
2. That we will be free (John 8:31-32).
3. That we will know Heavenly Father (John 14:7-9).
4. That we will go where he is (John 14:3).
5. That we will be exalted (Matthew 23:12).
6. That his spirit will always be with us (Luke 22:19-20).
7. That this earth will be ours (Matthew 5:5).
“But,” one might say, “what an effort, what a difficulty to get to now know one who is not here!”
Effort? Yes. But not a difficulty. Rather, a joy, a privilege. And he is here with us as much as we ask him to be.
Not to Humanize, But to Benefit
I am aware, as you should be, of the danger in humanizing Christ. Jesus was not human in the mortal sense. We cannot come to know him by comparing our weaknesses with his because he had none. We can come to know him only by the opposite process of comparing our strengths, our hopes, and our possibilities with his. Such a process will inevitably bring about four great benefits:
We will know him better.
We will know ourselves better.
We will realize greater humility in viewing our weakness against his greatness.
We will realize greater potential in viewing his perfection alongside our possibilities.
Use this column as a one-year plan for beginning to better know the Lord Jesus Christ.
Prayer and scripture are, of course, the prime places to learn of Christ. If this column substitutes for either it fails. If it promotes both, it succeeds.
Bear in mind that the facets of the Savior‘s personality only help us to know more about him (which is different from knowing him). His facets are like those of a diamond, only revealing and transmitting the radiance that shines from within. No facet is sufficient explanation of itself, and no facet possesses the source of its own luster.
We emphasize that this is not so much a column to be read as it is a program to be followed. It is written to be read one part at a time, each Sunday morning before going to church. It is important to read slowly, thoughtfully, and to turn to and read each scripture that each facet refers to.
Remember, too, that it is not only what you read each Sunday morning that will help you start to know the Savior, it is how you ponder that reading as you go to church and partake of his sacrament.
2004 Meridian Magazine. All Rights Reserved.