Monday nights around 5:00 you will find two Jessica's climbing our way up the south campus stairs to the JSB (Joseph Smith Building). When I was registering for classes this semester I found myself in need of 2.0 credits of religion. Last semester I took the first half of the New Testament from Sis. Gaye Strathern. It was my favorite class last semester and I did everything in my power to find another class taught by her. This semester I found it and fit it in my schedule. I am taking one of those once-a-week-but-twice-as-long evening classes. :)
*quick pause for explanation* For those who don't know or understand all this BYU lingo I shall explain. Each semester at BYU you are required to take at least one religion class and no more than two. You can choose from a variety of classes offered such as Book of Mormon, Old Testament, New Testament, and Doctrine and Covenants. All of these are split in half so one semester you take one and another semester you can take another. Logically it makes sense as it would be very difficult to read the whole book of works in one semester with 14 other credits. :) The New Testament is split up so that the first half consists of the 4 Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) studying the life and teachings of Christ in his earthly mission. The second half reads all the rest (Acts- Revelation) and studies the missions of Paul and the growth and decline of the early Christian Church. *now back to the story*
This class goes from 5:00-7:00 pm and is easily the best (and fastest) two hours of the week. Sis. Strathern teaches her classes to read intelligently and look for meaning and understanding as we read through the Bible. Her lectures are discussions and she makes us dig and search to find the answers to her questions. At the end of her class she hopes to instill in us the ability to discuss intelligently and actually understand the context and teachings found within the works. She is amazing. A student from Australia who got her masters in Physical Therapy and a PHD in Ancient Middle Eastern Studies (or something like that). She knows the original context of the bible and the history of what is happening to cause the principles taught. She will also give us the Greek translations of some of the words. These translations usually change the meaning of the scripture completely! It is amazing what a little "fancy King James" language can do to your doctrine...
This week we were studying the Corinthians. And the reason for my contemplative mood comes from a new understanding of Christian liberty and Charity. To set the stage Paul has received word that there a few problems in Corinth that are causing disunity in the church there. Paul sends a letter from Ephesus to the saints in Corinth addressing their issues. One of these issues is the issue of Christian liberty (as Sis. Strathern calls it). There are some saints who are eating at the Greek Temples. This causes issues because it is a signal to some that this is what they are worshiping. These saints are using the argument of "I know that there is only one God. I am not worshiping here. My testimony is not being hurt by it." Paul in turn takes that argument and throws it back into question. He tells them that the issue is not them eating at these temples. The issue is that those saints who are weaker in their testimonies who see you there might have a "stumbling block" because of you. This is what Paul cares about. In essence, if it offends anyone around you, then you shouldn't do it no matter what it is. If you have charity for your brothers and sisters, you will do everything in your power not to hurt them in any way, shape, or form. As Sis. Strathern puts it "There's no way in this wide world." *in an Australian accent* :)
Christan Liberty comes from the way Jesus taught his principles. The Jews were so fixed in the rules and letters of the law of what to do, when, and how much... and what not to do that some missed the subtle ways of Christ. Christ taught principles and let each one interpret what it means to them on an individual basis. The Gospel is the same today. It is such an individual experience that we are very rarely, if ever, given rules on things we should and shouldn't be doing. We get suggestions from the Brethren but nothing that isn't our choice. According to Paul we will let others help give us the guidelines on how to live. If it offends our neighbor... or even a stranger, we should care enough about them to not want to offend them. This goes as far as what you are doing is right. Christian liberty is the proper use of our agency.
So what does this mean for me, today, as a BYU student in 2009? What does what Paul thinks matter to me? It means that if I have hurt or offended anyone, I have the responsibility to repent of it. I will answer to God for my disunity. If I have charity I don't want to hurt my brothers and sisters. It was a slap in the face for me to hear this. It usually is when I go to Sis. Strathern's class... I know I need to do better. Its not an easy ride to make it to where I want to be. You have to get into the gospel, stop sitting on the stands, and labor diligently. Its hard work to be a disciple of God but the reward is beyond imagination. :)
Don't worry... I am not quite finished yet. With a slap like that, your self-esteem can hurt something awful. Heavenly Father rebukes us when its necessary and for me I was getting too comfortable and prideful in my life. It is time to kick it up a notch. But when that initial slap comes, he is ready for the relief and comfort to dab on your face... or for me... my heart.
We finished up class this week in 1 Corinthians 13. Paul is talking about Charity. Sis. Strathern took us through each characteristic charity has... (found in 1 Cor. 13: 4-8...you know the famous scripture... Charity suffereth long, beareth all things... etc... ) but she turned it on us so that I was able to see this scripture in a completely new light. I figured we would be talking about it as a "what we need to have in order to know we do have charity" as we just finished talking about Christian liberty... but this twist came and took my feet out from under me. I mean, of course I believe it this way but I've never thought of it quite like this...
Charity is the pure love of Christ (Moroni 7:45) so when Paul recites the characteristics of Charity he is describing Christ. (I know... duh Jess...) But go to a level of more depth and take a moment to pause and think about it. I will now leave you with this to ponder. We went through each of these things and discussed what Christ did in his mortal ministry to give us this perfect example to follow. We talked about how much he loves us, how much he suffered, how he was not easily (or ever) provoked, etc. We talked about how he believes in each one of us and in our capabilities (believeth all things) and how he hopes for our safe return and for our proper use of his atonement. He went through it all so that we could. I hope we remember that as we go about our daily lives... Christ never fails us and we should do everything we can to not let him down either.
4 aCharity bsuffereth long, and is ckind; charity denvieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,
8 Charity never afaileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away.