Saturday, January 31, 2009

Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship

This entry is part of my general conference application series.

Christian Courage: The Price of Discipleship, by Elder Robert D. Hales
Of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles

I have great colleagues at work who have varied backgrounds and religious beliefs. When we discuss religion, which happens more frequently than one might think it would, we do so openly and honestly without arguments or malice. However, my good friend, who works elsewhere, has an almost opposite work environment. He often feels looked down on and the end of jokes and ridicule because he lives what he believes and chooses to follow Christ.

Day. Night.

As I listened to this talk, Elder Hales' words seemed to be the perfect answer to my friend on how he can respond to accusations and ridicule he receives at work. He agreed. It was while studying the talk subsequently that I found specific applications to my life as well. It's nice that inspired words can teach and instruct in near-opposite situations. Elder Hales even acknowledges these differences. I love the following paragraph:

As we respond to others, each circumstance will be different. Fortunately, the Lord knows the hearts of our accusers and how we can most effectively respond to them. As true disciples seek guidance from the Spirit, they receive inspiration tailored to each encounter. And in every encounter, true disciples respond in ways that invite the Spirit of the Lord.

While I knew that the Lord knows our hearts, I don't think I had put that knowledge in the context of conflict resolution, standing as an example, and showing Christian courage before. Furthermore, I felt a bit chastened by the last line—Do I really respond appropriately when I feel challenged?

Probably not.

Should I?

If I want to be like Christ, I should.

Along the same vein, Elder Hales taught:

We must never become contentious when we are discussing our faith. ... More regrettable than the Church being accused of not being Christian is when Church members react to such accusations in an un-Christlike way! May our conversations with others always be marked by the fruits of the Spirit—"love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, [and] temperance" (Galatians 5:22–23).

When I talk with others, including responding to criticism and accusations, I don't want to adopt a patronizingly superior attitude; I want to genuinely love them. Elder Hales reminded me of this, and what my motivation needs to be:

How we should respond to our accusers[?] I reply, we love them. Whatever their race, creed, religion, or political persuasion, if we follow Christ and show forth His courage, we must love them. We do not feel we are better than they are. Rather, we desire with our love to show them a better way—the way of Jesus Christ. His way leads to the gate of baptism, the strait and narrow path of righteous living, and the temple of God. ... Only through [Christ] can we [all] inherit the greatest gift we can receive—eternal life and eternal happiness.

When I'm next having a religious conversation, whether friendly or hostile, I want to remember Elder Hales' reminder to show love. I don't want to just find a way to end the conversation (when it's hostile), like I've done at times in the past; rather, I want to show Christian courage and remember that I'm not just talking about what I believe, I'm testifying of the Truth.

I loved how I felt when Elder Hales taught that the way of Christ leads not just to baptism, as important as baptism is; not just to a righteous way of life, as important as our devotion is; but that the way of Christ leads to the temple of God, to eternal life, and to eternal happiness.

With so much on the line, I don't ever want to respond without the guidance of the Spirit; I want to help others come to Christ, as others have lovingly helped me.

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