In the New Testament, Christ tells various listeners to follow him twenty-two times. In the recent general conference we were encouraged to “Do Justly, Love Mercy, and Walk Humbly with God” in order to follow Christ.
In the Doctrine and Covenants we are told that:
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile
Let thy bowels also be full of charity towards all men, and to the household of faith, and let virtue garnish thy thoughts unceasingly; then shall thy confidence wax strong in the presence of God; and the doctrine of the priesthood shall distil upon thy soul as the dews from heaven.
The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.
So, how do we follow Christ:
- Act justly.
- We act gently.
- We love.
- We are kind.
- We avoid hypocrisy.
- We act without guile.
Those are the six points that I will address today in discussing how to follow Christ.
First, acting justly means to be honorable with others, being fair and intentionally avoiding acts that are harsh. It means to treat people without regard to their status or privileges. As Micah 6:8 states: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.”
In the scriptures examples of acting justly include taking care of the poor and treating foreigners in the land the same as your own people. The examples stress acting impartially. To not show favoritism to the rich, the important, the famous or our friends. The second chapter of James gives some examples of that and is quite pointed.
Being just also means being lawful. To treat those in authority with respect, regardless of whether or not we agree with them, and to follow the laws with respect, regardless of whether or not we agree with them. We do not look for excuses to break the law or to fail to abide by it.
Being just means being truthful or accurate. It means to avoid lying to ourselves about what our actions mean, to avoid self-aggrandizement and pride. To tell the complete truth rather than take advantage of a lack of knowledge in others. In that way, truth merges with being honorable and fair.
Finally, being just means following the standards of right and wrong that God has set for us, regardless of who is watching or if it costs more.
Second, acting gently means acting without harshness, or, as the Doctrine and Covenant states, with meekness. In the book of Matthew, Christ states “Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly in heart, and ye shall find rest to your souls.” In the sermon on the mount and in 3 Nephi Christ states “And blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”
The dictionary defines Meekness as “Softness of temper; mildness; gentleness; forbearance under injuries and provocations.” The Psalms expand the concept of forbearance as a part of meekness by tying it to trusting God and waiting on the Lord. It is a fundamental foundation for having faith and confidence in God.
Or, as it says in the first chapter of James:
19Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath:
20 For the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God.
21 Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls.
The book of James is contrasting those who are not meek, who do not like to listen and who become angry when they are asked to change or follow God on the one hand with those who are slow to speak and quick to listen, who recognize their own limits and who are patient and consider what they learn – he ties meekness into being teachable.
All of these factor into being gentle in the way we act with others and the way we respond to the gospel.
Third, to follow Christ is to love as Christ loves. While justice gives us a pattern for acting, and meekness a way to act and respond, the love of Christ gives us motive. To follow Christ we learn to act from love as he acted from love.
There are three things we are to love. God, our neighbors and mercy. We love God because he loved us first. We love our neighbors with the understanding of just who Christ taught our neighbors to be.
We are to love mercy. As the prophet Micah wrote:
8 He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God?
So, in addressing Love, how do we love God, our neighbors and Mercy?
We are told that we love God by:
- Knowing him.
- Obeying his commandments, the first and greatest of which is to love God and to love others. Christ stated that all other commandments were based on loving God and loving others.
- Embracing charity or the pure love of Christ.
It is ironic that loving God means loving our neighbors in the expansive sense. But that means that we have a tangible target for our love that we can see and interact with every day.
And charity ties in with Meekness in following Christ. As Moroni Chapter 7 states:
43 And again, behold I say unto you that he cannot have faith and hope, save he shall be meek, and lowly of heart.
44 If so, his faith and hope is vain, for none is acceptable before God, save the meek and lowly in heart; and if a man be meek and lowly in heart, and confesses by the power of the Holy Ghost that Jesus is the Christ, he must needs have charity; for if he have not charity he is nothing; wherefore he must needs have charity.
45 And charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
46 Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail—
47 But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him.
That fits well with what Paul stated in Corinthians:
2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.
3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.
4 Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity denvieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
5 Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;
6 Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the btruth;
7 Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.
8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.
9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.
11 When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.
12 For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
13 And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.
That is how we love our neighbors.
And to finish up the three things we are to love, we are to love Mercy. We love the mercy of God that grants us repentance. We love the mercy that we receive from others. And we love the extension of mercy to others.
So, to follow Christ, we act justly, we act gently, we love and we are kind. Kindness is the fourth way we follow Christ.
In many ways, kindness is the second half of love. A famous linguist, Dr. Elgin, defined charity as loving kindness because pure love is not complete without kindness.
Love gives us a motive, kindness gives us a method in how we act towards others.
The Bible stresses loving kindness.
For example: Psalm 17:7 “Shew thy marvelous lovingkindness” or
How excellent is thy lovingkindness, O God! therefore the children of men put their trust under the shadow of thy wings
Many other scriptures state not only the love of God, but the loving kindness of God, how great it is and how it allows us to trust in him, and to realize that we are not forsaken.
To follow Christ means that we share in not only the charity or pure love of Christ, but in his kindness, both receiving it and giving kindness.
Further, by having both mercy and kindness, we are able to reach others who need the love of Christ, following him by aiding his children.
The final two things we do is we avoid we avoid hypocrisy and we act without guile. Referring again to the Doctrine and Covenants:
By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile.
The dictionary definition of hypocrisy is “the practice of claiming to have moral standards or beliefs to which one’s own behavior does not conform; pretense.” However, hypocrisy is more than that.
It is also dangerous in that it spreads. Christ warned in Luke “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy.”
In fact, hypocrisy is dangerous because:
- It spreads.
- It lies to us when we engage in it and it nourishes pride. (Galatians 6:3). (James 1:22-23) and injustice.
- It lies to others and creates distance between us and them. (Consider Matthew 23:27-28, etc.). (Luke 6:37-42). (Matthew 7:1-6) and causes us to not be kind or merciful.
- It creates a distance between us and God. (Mark 7:6). (Matthew 7:21-23).
- It causes us to fail to act when we should. (Luke 6:46). (James 1:22-23).
- It leads to a loss of love. (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
Hypocrisy is the anti-virtue to the first four steps I discussed in how to follow Christ. As a result, avoiding hypocrisy is important in avoiding one of the most potent things that fights against our following Christ.
The word used in the Bible is rooted in the Greek word ὑποκριταί (hypokritai) which means “stage actors.” It is used to cover faking to be what one is not, and concealing real character and motives. It is faking things rather than doing them.
To sum up, quoting Christ:
 And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?
 Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?
 Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.
That leads us to the final way we follow Christ, we avoid guile.
Guile can be defined as “not being childlike”
Avoiding guile can be said to act with candor, frankness, honesty, sincerity, truthfulness.
To quote Joseph B. Wirthlin:
To be without guile is to be free of deceit, cunning, hypocrisy, and dishonesty in thought or action.
The Bible states “he that will love life, and see good days, let him refrain his tongue from evil, and his lips that they speak no guile” (1 Pet. 3:10).
To be without guile means to be without deceit, without cunning or dishonesty. It is a foundational part of being just and lawful both in how we think and how we act.
It is, to quote the scriptures, a blessed state (Psalm 32:2):
“Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.”
To quote a more modern translation:
“Blessed is the man to whom the Lord imputes no guilt, in whose spirit is no deceit”
As Psalm 24 states:
Who may ascend into the hill of the Lord?
And who may stand in His holy place?
He who has clean hands and a pure heart,
Who has not lifted up his soul to falsehood
And has not sworn deceitfully.
He shall receive a blessing from the Lord
And righteousness from the God of his salvation.
So, how do we follow Christ and arrive at God’s holy place?
- Act justly.
- We act gently.
- We love.
- We are kind.
- We avoid hypocrisy.
- We act without guile.
We do those things, we follow Christ in our minds, in our hearts and in our actions. We are able to manifest compassion and charity with loving kindness and will be reunited with God in the last day.
This is my testimony, in the name of Jesus Christ.
This was a talk I gave in Sacrament meeting, minus the personal stories I illustrated it with.
For our readers:
- Where did I go wrong?
- What are the biggest mistakes you feel I made in my analysis?
- What would you have done differently?
- How would you have improved the talk?
My apologies for the post getting posted late.
Images are from Wikimedia Commons.