I have, for a long, long time, thought that I had to become perfect in order to become one with Christ. I now understand that this is not true doctrine – that it is in fact a false belief that demeans my Savior’s love and sacrifice – the sacrifice that He made for me…and for you.
I can certainly be excused for this mistake. Pertinent scriptures include John 17:20-23:
Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word;
That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me.
And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:
I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that thou hast sent me, and hast loved them, as thou hast loved me.
As well as Matthew 5:48:
Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.
And 3 Nephi 12:48:
Therefore I would that ye should be perfect even as I, or your Father who is in heaven is perfect.
Just today, however, I was given to understand things differently. Rather than me having to gradually perfect myself, I now understand that the Lord’s heart – His perfection – can actually expand to take in my imperfections. In other words:
And if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them. (Ether 12:27)
The Lord says nothing about being perfect – only that His grace is sufficient. The condition for His grace to be sufficient? “…if men come unto me…” and “…humble themselves before me…” I don’t have to fit into His mold. He will expand His mold to include me. This, then, is the definition of His grace – that He has been perfected; that His strength is such that He actually can take unto Himself my imperfections and we can still be one. My weakness and imperfection can be absorbed by His strength and perfection.
Of course, this seems to contradict the common belief that the Lord cannot be in the presence of sin – that He cannot endure sin. I looked up the scriptures on this, also. D&C 1:31 says (emphasis mine):
For I the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance;
Similarly, Alma 45:16 says (emphasis mine):
And he said: Thus saith the Lord God—Cursed shall be the land, yea, this land, unto every nation, kindred, tongue, and people, unto destruction, which do wickedly, when they are fully ripe; and as I have said so shall it be; for this is the cursing and the blessing of God upon the land, for the Lord cannot look upon sin with the least degree of allowance.
There are two issues here that need to be addressed. First – what does it mean to “look upon”? Doesn’t that give the image of being detached? Indeed, if we remain far from Him, rejecting Him, He can do no more than “look upon” – I’m sure with great sadness. If we come to Him, however, if we humble ourselves before Him, and seek His grace, are we detached? Are we being “looked upon”? If He is to cleanse us of our sins (consider the ordinance of washing the feet in John 13), would His hands not get just a little dirty in the process? Did He not endure, even overcome sin in the Garden of Gethsemane? He not only endured sin, He conquered it in an eternal, painful, intimate battle.
The other issue is the definition of sin. I think we wrongly equate willful, rebellious sin with weakness and imperfection. He gave us weakness that we might be humble. He encouraged us, even commanded us, to become perfect, knowing full well that we are not. Are we rejected of Him, then, because we have weakness and imperfection? If we come unto Him, and humble ourselves before Him, even though we are as yet not fully aware of all our weakness and imperfection, He has promised that He will make our “…weak things become strong..” unto us. How can He possibly do this without understanding, perhaps even becoming intimate with, our individual weakness and imperfections?
I have received permission to share the following from the Lord. I pray that none will be offended. I do so not to draw any attention to myself, but only that we might all feel the warmth, the compassion, the beautiful love and understanding that He offers us:
Feel my love for you. Receive it. You have not rejected me, and I will never reject you. We are one, and we rejoice over this. Even in your imperfection, my grace is sufficient that we can be one – just as with your children. Through my grace, I can absorb your imperfection and we can still be one. See – now you understand much better, don’t you? This you can absolutely share. This, in fact, you must share.
His words are to each of us…to all of us…that if we will come to Him and bare all, humbling ourselves, hiding not our weakness and imperfection either from ourselves or from Him; if we will ask Him to help us to become, therefore, perfect, His grace is indeed sufficient, and this dream of “oneness” can be realized – even today, now, at this time. Can we believe?