Sunday, November 6, 2016

Casting Judgement: Missed opportunities to love one another

Last month I had a special opportunity to travel with my wife, my parents, my brothers, and two of my sisters-in-law to Dublin, Ireland and the surrounding countryside to view the beautiful homeland of my father and connect with his birth family. It has been an incredible and remarkable experience, one that I am working to document for my children and their future generations. (See more at Made in Ireland film.)

While I was there, one of the things that we came upon was the stunning Christ Church Cathedral in downtown Dublin. It was our first day in Ireland and we had planned to spend it walking all over Dublin and recovering from our flight crossing the United States and the Atlantic Ocean. 

Christ Church Cathedral, Dublin, Ireland.

The Christ Church Cathedral is beautiful and sits on the banks of the River Liffey. It dates back to 1030 AD on its current location. As you approach the cathedral, you cannot help but feel drawn to enter its ancient grounds and peek inside.

I am not a Catholic, but I am a christian as a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and I embrace opportunities to learn more about how others approach God through their worship.

As I entered the grounds, I came upon the following sculpture of a homeless man.

I paused, thinking this was a strange sculpture for such a beautiful location. Homelessness is a terrible problem throughout much of the United States. I felt my nose wrinkle as I cast judgement. If I were the art director for these grounds, surely there were much more beautiful pieces that could have been curated for such a notable place visited by so many every year.

And, then, as I continued on, my blood ran cold as my gaze landed upon the feet of the man depicted in the sculpture.

Recognition quickly set over me as I stared at the prints of the nails in His feet, tangible symbols of a price paid for all of us. I know and love this man. It was the bruised and broken body of The Master, our Savior Jesus Christ.

I was surprised that I did not recognize Him earlier. Here is a man that I love, that I try to follow in my everyday life, though I often fall short of His ways and teachings.

I wondered why my reaction was closer to that of disgust rather than worry for the homeless, and I knew that a better christian would have had thoughts of compassion initially.

I reflected on the lyrics of a well-loved hymn called 'A Poor Way-Faring Man of Grief':

Then in a moment to my view
The stranger started from disguise.
The tokens in his hands I knew;
The Savior stood before mine eyes.

My wife Mary and I stood there for a couple of moments quietly pondering about the Savior and my wife remarked that it was her favorite piece of artwork that she had seen so far in Ireland. I am quite certain that the art was effective and that it fulfilled the objective of the artist as it required us to contemplate our own discipleship.

In one of the final discussions with His apostles, Jesus taught:

 A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.             
Christ Teaches His Apostles

In the weeks since this experience, I have thought about what type of person am I really. If I do not recognize the body of Christ, what other opportunities around me am I missing to serve and lift others? In what ways do I neglect the commandment I have been given to love one another because of the judgements I place on others? What people in my life are silently suffering or have a need of my time, service, or compassion?

2016 is a difficult time. Social media is full of vitriol. We tend to judge each other based on the clothes we wear, the vehicles we drive, the things we eat. With so many differences of opinion on everything from politics to religion to parenting techniques, life has become full of unsolicited criticism. Casting judgements on others without really knowing them, their backstory, or what they may be going through is a missed opportunity on our part to just love as the Savior loves.

Note that Christ did not give the disclaimer that we should love another if one deems themselves worthy of our love, or if one aligns with our viewpoints - rather the commandment is that we should love as He did, which in my opinion is an unconditional love.

I am hopeful that I will be able to remove prejudice and judgement from my view as I continue to grow in love for God, for others, and for myself.

The author with his family at Christ Church Cathedral. Dublin, Ireland.

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