My last post, Conversations with God #12, elicited some questions from someone who is having trouble reconciling my “theology” with their understanding of the gospel. Each question asked is so deep that it elicits a thoughtful response. This may become a series. I hope so. I guess we’ll see. One of the most prominent, repeated questions seems to focus on how we can love without judgment…
“Love Others Without Judgment” was a statement given to me by revelation during one particularly pleasant communion with the being that I recognize and honor as Jesus Christ. It’s hard for us to think about loving without judgment. Some people that I have encountered believe that, if we truly love someone, we do judge them, even admonish them – as if it’s our duty; that we judge their actions as either good or evil and tell them about it. This judgment is a manifestation of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil. A question commonly stated is, “How can we choose between good and evil if we don’t judge”?
What, then, does it mean to “love others without judgment”? We certainly need to judge actions, as to whether they are good or evil – not only the actions of others, but our own actions. But perhaps it’s not as important that we judge between good and evil, for that implies that we understand good vs. evil, which introduces a set of values which are necessarily determined by our life experiences, our culture, and of course, the resulting jealousies and fears as mentioned in D&C 67:10. (“Jealousies and fears” is an inspired description of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil.) Perhaps, instead, we should be judging between love and fear.
It is largely accepted that, by partaking of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, we became separated from God. Whereas before we walked with Him and talked with Him, now we were separated from His presence. I believe this is a powerful metaphor – not a literal story – but it is a very, very powerful metaphor or parable and, if understood correctly, an excellent description of our relationship with God. I believe that this separation exists not because we are able to discern between good and evil, but because we choose to focus on avoiding the evil, rather than pursuing the good. In other words, we act in fear, rather than acting in love. It’s a “glass half full / glass half empty” situation.
Besides D&C 67:10, another of the cornerstone scriptures of the theology that has evolved in my understanding over the past few years is 1 John chapter 4 – particularly verse 18, which says:
There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love.
The whole chapter is powerful, and expounds the idea (fact?) that if we do not live in love, but live instead in fear, we are necessarily separate from God, or we “know not God”.
What does this have to do with judgment? Judging based on our perceptions of what we observe around us – whether it is love-based or fear-based – is essential. But we must constantly be aware of the fact that our observations are strictly our perception, and seldom, if ever, represent the whole truth. This is fine, of course. We can do no more. But if we allow our judgment, based upon our imperfect perception, to create separation either between us and God, or us and others, then we perpetuate the fallen state, the state of living in fear, and we cannot return to “dwelling in His presence”.
This separation, then, is perpetuated because we judge in fear. We judge things as being evil, and we seek to avoid them. We are focusing on the fear rather than the love. We have already established in 1 John chapter 4 that “God is love” (verse 8), and that there is no fear in love, so if we choose to entertain fear in our hearts, we cannot be one with Him.
Furthermore, when we judge others, or even ourselves, in such a way that we create an hierarchy of being – in other words “I’m better than or less than him” – we deny the atonement, which is the principle, or fact, or idea, that we are all perfect creations of God; but that in our fallen state we have lost the understanding of that fact, which fact nevertheless is truth, and can never be denied, only misunderstood. In other words, I am no better than you, nor you better than me, and we are all one in Christ, and we are all in our unique way learning to recognize that fact. Taking this idea one step further, Christ’s love for us is unconditional. Should our love for each other be any less? 1 John 4: Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. Therefore, if our judgment induces us to love anyone either more or less as a result of that judgment, then that judgment perpetuates this separation, perpetuates the fall, and keeps us from being one with God; one with Christ.
None of this is easy. I struggle with it constantly. But I have prayed, asking Christ to help me; that this – my comprehension and understanding – might become my reality. That I might overcome my own weakness, my own fears, and simply become love, living without fear, in oneness with Christ. The process is incomplete, to be sure, but it is manifest enough that my joy increases on a daily basis as I practice these principles in my day-to-day actions, drawing ever closer, ever more one, with Christ.