[photopress:Allyses_bride_0209.jpg,thumb,pp_style]By Danielle Ellis
A recent moment of contemplation led me to a new understanding of love: what it really is, why we need it, and how it can change our lives now and in the eternities.
I was on the way to the temple to do ordinance work for some family members. The names came from my grandfather, now on the other side of the veil for twenty years, who spent years carefully completing this research, though he was not a member of the LDS Church.
With a moment to ponder while driving, my heart was turned with great love towards these beloved ancestors I would soon be sealed to, including my precious grandfather, his parents and brother and sister.
It was then that I clicked on a lecture from the “Our Savior” series, to the talk by Dr. Richard Holzapfel called “Jesus and the Gospel of Love.” I was overcome with emotion as he said:
“The Hebrew Bible reveals that love is the defining characteristic of the relationship between the Lord and His people. The Book of Deuteronomy summarizes the story of the Lord’s dealing with His people as an expression of His freely bestowed love. …The Israelites could respond only to that love through a whole-hearted love of God in return.”
The Spirit testified to me of the truth of this principle. It conveyed with sublime beauty that the effects of that love influence all the most important facets of our lives. We can see these in the roles and types in the Savior’s life. Dr. Holzapfel put it this way:
“We testify that Jesus Christ is the climax of the story of ancient Israel. We believe that God’s love was manifested plainly and concretely in the life, ministry, death and resurrection of His Son.
The Father shows His love primarily through the Son as Jesus bestows love, mercy and forgiveness as acts of grace….
“And finally, once and for all, through Gethsemane, Golgotha and the Garden Tomb, in the Atonement a door has been opened in the cosmos that can never be shut again. All that was accomplished in love” (emphasis added).
As I thought of family members who would soon be sealed eternally to their loved ones, my thoughts wandered to the image given in scripture of Christ as the bridegroom and the Church as the bride. I thought of how a bride acts toward her beloved. She eagerly anticipates hearing from him. She hangs on His every word. She anticipates what his needs are and does her best to do and be what he wants her to do. She waits eagerly for the day when they will be together and live in love.
As members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, living at the time when we should be preparing for the Savior’s return, does this describe us as a people? Does it describe you personally?
Do you read your scriptures eagerly? Do you linger over them, rereading significant passages for clarity? Do you ask the Lord for further understanding on them?
Do you really care what Jesus wants your life to be? Enough to change?
Are you casting away old habits that are not becoming of the bride
of Christ? Are you becoming the type of person who seeks to be with God and do His will more than anything else?
Are you eagerly awaiting the day when you will be with Him- on the other side of the veil or because you are able to greet Him at
His triumphant return to earth?
Faced with the reality of God’s love for you, do you take part in that relationship, responding with “a whole-hearted love”? Or do you turn your back on that great love, walk away, and then wonder why you walk alone?
Or, conversely, do you simply tolerate the Lord, showing up for church, scripture study, prayers and temple worship grudgingly, or with an emotional wall around yourself? Do you resent His attempts to refine you as “unfair”?
Dr. Holzapfel notes that we neglect the study of love in the gospels, and even the practice of love. This is a critical problem, because becoming a loving person “shows who has been transformed by the good news, therefore it is of significance to every breathing, living mortal.”
When we examine the words of Paul regarding love (see 1 Corinthians 13), we see that a life lived, or service given without love “profiteth [us] nothing.” We must live and serve with love because we have a “whole-hearted love of God.” Dr. Holzapfel teaches that all we must do to get this love for ourselves is “to accept it, because the gift has already been given.”
Here we arrive at a great truth: “The omnipotence of God is not the power of unlimited coercion; but the power of invincible love, manifested by and through Jesus Christ our Lord.”
Therefore, we must live our lives with love. Not because we must, but because God has set the example. How does He bless us?
Joyfully, with great love. Jesus faced the trials of His life, His enemies, the garden and the cross, joyfully, because He loves us.
Can we do more? Can we love the Lord enough to accept His love?
His invitations to serve? His pleas to save our dead? His call to gather to the safety of His embrace?
I pray that we will.