February 2015 Visiting Teaching Message: The Attributes of Jesus Christ: Without Sin

Traduction en français/Click for French Translation

Let’s be real. Any discussion of sin makes me uncomfortable. Sure, we all sin. But because we all do it…. it can get weird when we are supposed to discuss it. Especially in such a personal setting such as Visiting Teaching. My sin is my business, and if I am visiting teaching you, or even if not, your sin is your business. So whilst I know that this month’s message is focused on Christ and His lack of sin… any discussion of sin, for me has a judgmental feeling when compared to spirit of healing that attends with discussion of atonement. In this, this month’s message made me feel a little like I was winding up to “cast the first stone.”

 

cafeNot wanting to do this, I pondered and how to teach it, with love. In this, I remembered a night. Long ago. I was a YSA, faithfully fulfilling callings at my ward, at Institute and even the stake. I never felt comfortable with the crowd I deemed to be “Unwelcoming Molly-ish” (the kind of folks I envision now write these messages). So although I served with many of those individuals in the cliques, I socialised more with church attending, but peripheral individuals. In this, I had become very close to one woman. I trusted her, which for me, was something uncommon. We served together in a presidency, sat together between LDS boyfriends in Sacrament meeting and sometimes shared transportation to church activities. Her background was as imperfect as mine… which in this case, meant some of her family attended church, some did not, neither of us were from Utah (or predominantly LDS communities) and her father was not an RM (neither was mine, a strange factor sometimes in church clique socialising for us). We weren’t fringe dissenters, but we weren’t “church culture clique,” either.

 

She asked me to go out with her to grab dinner, I think. It might have been dessert. She mainly wanted to talk. As she spoke, she told me that she had sex, “once by choice, once not.”

 

I do not believe that rape in any way is “sex.” It is rape. But those were her words, and she needed to be heard– not taught, not corrected.

The “once by choice” was recognised by her as an immediate mistake, and she quickly confessed to her understanding bishop who cleared her as a worthy daughter of God. The “once not” experience was on an overnight school trip in high school. She had gone to bed having chosen to leave a party getting out of hand. Her “friend” who she shared this hotel room remained at the party. This roommate had been pestering my friend about a boy who she felt my friend should be involved with. My friend’s repeated verbalized disinterest in the boy was violently ignored when this roommate encouragingly gave the room key to the boy and told him it was fine for him to go in and force himself on her. Which he did. As the roommate waited in the hall until he was finished.

 

My friend’s eyes were focused on the table at the restaurant as she spoke, but did not meet mine. She said she wanted to tell this to me. About how it molded her. About how she wasn’t friends with very many people after that. About how she withdrew from a lot of social activities and groups. But she trusted me. And it was important to her to share this story. She didn’t say why, and I didn’t ask. But she shared her sin with me—the sin she had committed, as well as the sins forced upon her…. sins that in my mind were significantly greater than the one she had committed. It was all sin—whether as participant, or victim, it was sin.

 

So what does this have to do with the message this month? Well the focus on the message is overwhelmingly aimed at the sins we, as individuals, commit. And that is what makes this message so hard to “share”… it avoids discussion of the fact that we, as individuals, sometimes blame ourselves for sins committed against us *because* of the sins we have committed. Be it sex, alcohol, dishonesty or not wearing a CTR ring, sometimes we blame ourselves for the sins of others who hurt us. Just as my friend blamed herself for being raped because she had slipped up once before.

 

So what can we, as imperfect beings, teach to those we visit about sin? I like juxtaposing the first part of the quote from D. Todd Christofferson in this thought:

Jesus was … a being of flesh and spirit, but He yielded not to temptation. We can turn to Him … because He understands. He understands the struggle, and He also understands how to win the struggle. …

 

Because “He yielded not to temptation,” Jesus has a clean slate that will absorb the pain and guilt we have, even when the sin is not our own. He understands the “struggle” associated with healing, with forgiving ourselves, and forgiving others. But most important, Jesus understands how to help us have freedom from emotional pain, just as much as He understands our own transgressions. Thus, the suggested question in the “Consider This” section was benevolent reprieve:

 

How does being pure differ from being perfect?

 

Chieko Okazaki  gave us some brilliant insight to this:

[Christ is] not waiting for us to be perfect. Perfect people don’t need a Savior. He came to save His people in their imperfections. He is the Lord of the living, and the living make mistakes. He’s not embarrassed by us, angry at us, or shocked. He wants us in our brokenness, in our unhappiness, in our guilt and our grief. (Lighten Up, Deseret Book Co., 1993.)

 

In other words, Christ wants YOU. And me. And everyone else. And it is okay of we are not prefect, what is important is they we are trying, and that we are aiming to be pure through self improvement. Because to me, repentance is more about self-improvement than it is about confession and penance. A powerful example of this for me was in reading and hearing the following story from Melissa Heath’s May 2012 BYU Devotional Speech, Becoming More Teachable:

 

A few years ago I attended groups sponsored by the LDS twelve-step addiction recovery program. I attended with a dear 
friend, and we supported each other. These groups are held every day of the week at various locations throughout the Wasatch Front. Recovering from addiction is a lifelong challenge.

My friend and I learned 
practical lessons from group members. I learned that successful days of sobriety are never lost. When you slip and fall back into old patterns of addiction, it is critical that you immediately get back on track, repent 
by following the necessary steps, and move forward to add another day of sobriety to your “new history.” You do not lose any of your days of sobriety. Instead, you keep those previous days of sobriety and simply add 
your new days to the tally. I appreciated the fact that you keep making “new history”—what a positive way to think about getting back on track and staying on track.

Contrary to Satan’s voice, which tells us 
that things are hopeless, that we are worthless, and that we are forever lost, our Savior wants all of us to repent as quickly as possible, get back on track, and come unto Him.

 

I know none of us are without sin. But rather than reminding the women I visit teach that they are as sinful as I am, I choose to focus on the power of atoning friendship. Because sometimes, listening, about sins being committed, either by choice or by force, is the most Christlike thing we can do. But I am not going to ask about the sins. I’m just going to be a listening ear about what they need to share with me– recipes? Viruses? Frustrations with bus schedules? Sins? Pains? Sorrows? Joys? My ear is here. So is my heart.

Soyons honnêtes : toute discussion sur le péché me rend mal à l’aise. Nous le faisons tous. Mais comme nous le faisons tous, c’est bizarre quand il faut en parler, surtout dans une situation si personnelle comme une visite d’enseignement. Mes péchés me regardent, et même quand je suis ta sœur visiteuse, tes péchés ne me regardent pas. Je sais que le message du mois est centré sur le Christ et Sa manque de péché, toute discussion du péché me donne un sentiment de jugement comparée au sentiment de guérison qui règne pendant une discussion de l’Expiation. Ce message m’a fait sentir comme si je « jetais la première pierre. »

J’ai pensé à comment enseigner ce message avec amour. Il y a longtemps, lorsque j’étais JA, je remplissais fidèlement mes appels à la paroisse, à l’institut, même au pieu. J’avais une amie avec qui je servais dans une présidence et faisais du covoiturage aux activités de l’Eglise. Elle venait d’un milieu aussi imparfait que le mien, c’est-à-dire seulement une partie de sa famille allait à l’Eglise, elle ne venait pas d’Utah et son père n’était pas un missionnaire de retour. Nous n’étions pas des rebelles, mais nous n’étions pas non plus au centre des clans sociaux à l’Eglise.  

Un jour elle m’a demandé de sortir manger avec elle. Elle avait surtout envie de parler. Elle m’a dit qu’elle avait déjà couché…”une fois par choix, l’autre par force.”

« L’une fois par choix » a été reconnu en tant qu’erreur et elle a rapidement confessé à son évêque. L’autre fois s’est passé lors d’un voyage de classe au lycée. Elle était allée au lit après avoir goûté une boisson alcoolique. « L’amie » qui partageait sa chambre d’hôtel l’avait embêtée toute la soirée au sujet d’un garçon, et avait fini par donner la clé de la chambre au garçon en l’encourageant à coucher avec mon amie par force. Ce qu’il a fait.  

Ses yeux étaient fixés sur la table pendant qu’elle me racontait cette histoire. Elle m’a dit qu’elle voulait me la raconter. Qu’elle l’avait influencée. Qu’elle n’avait plus beaucoup d’amis. Mais elle me faisait confiance, et elle a partagé son péché avec moi: le péché qu’elle a commis, et ceux qui était commis sur elle, des péchés qui étaient à mes yeux plus grands que celui qu’elle avait commis.  

Le message cible les péchés qui nous commettons. C’est cela qui rend ce message si difficile à partager. Il évite le fait que parfois nous nous blâmons pour des péchés qui nous subissons des autres. Mon amie se blâmait pour son viol car elle avait déjà couché « une fois par choix . »

Que pouvons-nous faire alors, en tant qu’êtres imparfaits, pour enseigner le péché à celles que nous visitons? Je pense que la citation de D. Todd Christofferson est appropriée :

Jésus était … un être de chair et d’esprit, mais Il n’a pas cédé à la tentation. Nous pouvons nous tourner vers Lui…car il nous comprend. Il comprend notre lutte, et Il comprend aussi comment gagner cette lutte…

Comme il n’a pas cédé à la tentation, Jésus est parfait et prendra sur Lui la douleur et la culpabilité que nous avons, même lorsque ce n’est pas nous qui avons commis le péché. Il comprend la lutte associée à la guérison, et la liberté de la douleur émotionnelle. Je trouve que la question proposée par le message soulage énormément :

Comment être pure diffère d’être parfait?

Chieko Okazaki a dit :

[Le Christ] n’attend pas que nous soyons parfaits. Les personnes parfaits n’ont pas besoin d’un Sauveur. Il est venu pour sauveur Son people dans leurs imperfections. Il est le Seigneur des vivants, et les vivants font des erreurs. Il n’a pas honte de nous, il n’est pas fâché avec nous, nous ne le choquons pas. Il nous veut dans notre état brisé, dans notre tristesse, dans notre culpabilité et notre deuil. (Lighten Up, Deseret Book Co., 1993.)

Dit autrement, le Christ veut toi et moi, et ce n’est pas grave que nous ne sommes pas parfaits. Ce qui est important est que nous faisons des efforts et que nous essayons de nous purifier en nous améliorant. Pour moi, le repentir veut dire plus s’améliorer que confesser et être pénitent. Un exemple puissant pour moi est dans le discours de Melissa Heath à BYU en mai 2012, qui s’appelle Becoming More Teachable:

Il y a quelques années, j’ai assisté à quelques groups sponsorisés par le programme contre l’addiction de l’Eglise. J’y suis allée avec une chère amie, et nous nous sommes soutenues. Ces groupes sont tenus tous les jours de la semaine partout sur le Front Wasatch aux Etats-Unis. Guérir d’une addiction est un défi de toute une vie.

Mon amie et moi avons appris des leçons pratiques des membres de ces groups. J’ai appris que les jours de sobriété ne sont jamais perdus. Quand on retombe dans de mauvais habitudes d’addictions, il faut se relever immédiatement et ajouter un autre jour de sobriété à sa « nouvelle histoire. » On ne perd pas ses jours de sobriété. On garde les anciens et on y ajoute des nouveaux. J’aime l’idée qu’on crée une nouvelles histoire, quelle manière positive de penser à se remettre sur le bon chemin et y rester.

Contrairement à la voix de Satan, qui nous dit que tout est sans espoir, que nous sommes sans valeur, et que nous sommes perdus à jamais, le Sauveur veut que nous nous repentions aussi rapidement que possible, que nous nous remettions sur le bon chemin et que nous venions à Lui.

Je sais qu’aucune d’entre nous n’est sans péché. Mais plutôt que de rappeler aux femmes que je visite qu’elles pèchent autant que moi, je choisis de mettre l’accent sur le pouvoir de l’amitié expiatoire. Parfois, écouter est la chose la plus chrétienne que nous pouvons faire. Je ne vais pas poser des questions sur leur péchés, mais je vais écouter ce qu’elles ont besoin de partager avec moi. Mon oreille et mon cœur sont avec elles.

Spunky

Spunky lives in Queensland, Australia. She loves travel and aims to visit as many church branches and wards in the world as possible.

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2 Responses

  1. Em says:

    Thank you for this. I really liked your story about how being honest about sin (both committed, and those committed upon us) builds intimacy and trust. I have often felt that my line of who is truly my friend are those I feel comfortable sharing these kinds of things honestly with. In some ways I struggle with that as it relates to formal discipline within the church. Being honest about sins we commit is a very raw thing to do. It is hard to say it to God. It is hard to say it to the Bishop. I think that is why it is so important to remember to counsel with God first. There are instances where speaking with church leaders is important and brings healing, but because it isn’t always necessary or helpful, speaking first with God and feeling the love of God can help give us insight about when any other steps might be helpful or appropriate.

    • spunky says:

      Such a brilliant point, Em! Thank you! You are right. We often forget to counsel with God before church leaders. It is so, so important to do so.

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