Because They Were of One Heart and One Mind
This post is adapted from a talk shared in my ward’s hybrid In-Person Sacrament Meeting/Online Devotional.
The bible teaches us that in the early Christian church, the disciples were “of one heart and one mind”. They shared their possessions and had everything in common. There were no poor. To me, this sounds idyllic. I want to know more about it. I want to know how things were organized. I want to know their process for making decisions. I want to know how it all worked. I find the idea that the disciples were of one heart and one mind particularly remarkable because the early converts to Christianity were from all over the Mediterranean region. They had different backgrounds, different cultures, even different languages. Remember the story of the Day of Pentecost, from the book of Acts? Jews from many nations were gathered together, but each person heard the others in their own native language. The unity that they felt from being able to understand one another must have been amazing. Thousands of people were baptized that day.
As I read that story, I thought about how much dis-unity there is in the world. I thought about how right now in the U.S. we are experiencing growing political polarization. I thought about how it can be very hard for people on opposite sides of an issue to understand each other, even if they both speak the same language. It is imperative that we learn to listen to one another. Making sure that everyone feels “heard” is an important part of building any community. This is true whether the community is as big as a nation or as small as a family. I know that for my family, having a discussion and addressing concerns is essential to making plans that everyone can at least tolerate, if not be happy with.
As I read about the Pentecost, I also wondered about how Jesus taught them to build that type of community. The Parable of the Good Samaritan was the first thing that came to my mind, and that story will be the focus of the rest of this talk. Jesus taught that the two great commandments are 1) to love the Lord with all your heart, soul, and mind, and 2) to love your neighbor as yourself. When the lawyer asked “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus responded with the Parable of the Good Samaritan: A man was robbed, beat up, and left to die on the side of the road. The priest and the Levite walked right by him. But the Samaritan, his enemy, stopped. He attended to the man’s wounds. He took the man to an inn, and he paid the innkeeper to take care of him. The Samaritan saw a vulnerable person in need and protected him.
There are three teachings from this story that I want to discuss:
1) Look past the politics and love your enemy
2) Care for the vulnerable
3) Provide a time and place for injuries to heal.
1: Look past the politics and love your enemy
The Samaritans and the Jews did not get along. The good Samaritan helped the man anyway. He acted with compassion. He put aside hate and loved his enemy. I imagine that the beaten man’s attitude towards Samaritans might have changed after this interaction. I imagine that his thoughts would soften as he remembered the stranger who saved his life. I imagine that both men would be able to better recognize their common humanity after that experience. Loving your enemy is not an easy thing to do. But I believe it is necessary in order to heal the division and contention in this world.
2: Care for the vulnerable
Without the aid of the Samaritan, the vulnerable man would have died. The priest and the Levite walked past. They did not want the inconvenience of being ritually unclean, even if it could save a person’s life. Making the effort to protect the vulnerable man was almost certainly inconvenient for the Samaritan. He took the time to clean and bind his wounds. He transported the man to an inn. He paid money to the innkeeper to help the man and promised he would pay more later if it was needed. Putting your own convenience before someone else’s wellbeing is not loving your neighbor. Even if that person is a stranger or an enemy.
My sister has a compromised immune system. She’s on oxygen at night. It can be challenging and exhausting for her to walk up a single flight of stairs. She can’t breathe through a mask. A regular cold can be dangerous for her. When she moved to live much closer to me, I worried about her catching a cold from my children. The pandemic has actually made that particular worry much easier to deal with, because suddenly isolating and germ avoidance was normalized. Her long-term medical needs have shaped decades of our family’s life, but I’m thankful that she’s still alive. The time that she is able to spend with my kids is so precious to me. I’m glad my children have a relationship with her and are able to learn from her unique perspective on life. Relationships are what really matter.
3: Provide a time and place for injuries to heal
Unlike the man left half dead at the side of the road, most of the hurts I’ve experienced have not left visible marks on my body and have not needed medical attention. These hurts still need time and space to heal. A friend on Facebook recently posted a line of wisdom that I love:
“Ask someone about their journey without judging or conveying your opinion. Just listen and hold them wherever they are.”
I have found that talking to someone can be very healing, if that person is willing to listen with empathy and without judgement. When you see someone hurting while on the road of life, take the time to try to listen. There is power in recognizing and naming emotions. One of the most helpful things I’ve learned to do when one of my kids has a tantrum is to observe what emotion I think they are feeling. Once they know that I know they are angry or scared or frustrated or sad, it’s much easier to talk about the situation calmly. My part of the conversation often sounds something like this: You are acting like you are angry. Are you angry because…? Yes? I would be angry if that happened to me too. What did you try to do to solve the problem? Did it work? Have you thought about…? What could you do if this scenario happens? What would be a good way to use that anger in a way that is safe for everyone?
This kind of conversation is good at calming down the emotions. It helps the person feel understood. It helps the person make a plan to deal with the emotion constructively. It helps them open their mind to new behaviors. This type of conversation is exactly what we promise to do when we are baptized. When we “are willing to bear one another’s burdens, that they may be light… and are willing to mourn with those that mourn; yea, and comfort those that stand in need of comfort,” (Mosiah 18:8-9.) Carrying someone else’s burden is too big of a job for one person to do alone. The good Samaritan could not care for the beaten man the entire length of his recovery, but he was able to connect him to the resources he needed for healing. Even though he couldn’t do everything, his role was still critical in the man’s recovery. So often I feel like I have to do it all for everybody. I want to point out that the scripture says we need to bear one another’s burdens. This is not just taking on someone else’s burden, but also allowing others to lift your own burden. Sharing my own burdens is a vulnerable act, and that can be a hard thing to do.
I would love to be a part of a community where everyone is “of one heart and one mind”. That implies that we know and care for the vulnerable parts of each other’s hearts. Communication can be a challenging thing. Sometimes we have to learn to communicate in new ways so that we can understand each other—so that we are speaking the same language. When we know and understand each other, we should hold each other’s feelings carefully and consider them in our actions. Our influence should be “by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;” (D&C 121:41).
We are all human and we will all make mistakes. My heart aches for so many of the things that I see about in the news. It aches at many of the interactions I see online. I don’t know how to heal all the division and contention in the world. However, I believe that a persistent effort to love your neighbor will help heal hurts, build bridges, and make a difference. When we love our neighbors (even the ones we disagree with), we are showing our love to God. As Jesus taught: “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me” (Matt 25:40).
In the name of Jesus Christ,