Charity Suffered Long Enough…
I love stories of lost miserable souls, hopeless to themselves and in the minds of all those around, yet redeemable still. Some of the greatest stories, some of the greatest films, tell of the lost cause in which no one has hope, or of the lost man in whom no one believes, but somehow the hand of help is outreached, and the cause endures, the wretched man finds joy in redemption. The hopeless cause is like a magnet to our souls because as wretched sinners ourselves we relate well to being lost. We experience hope in witnessing someone that is found. Hope for them is hope for us. True charity for the wayward is everlasting love for us all.
Mormon spoke well with bold authority from God, “I fear not what man can do; for perfect love casteth out all fear. And I am filled with charity, which is everlasting love; wherefore, all children are alike unto me; wherefore, I love little children with a perfect love; and they are all alike and partakers of salvation” (Moroni 8:16-17). Although he spoke of little children specifically, salvation is offered to all, and no one is beyond the reach of the Savior and His infinite atonement. We are all alike, even the most wretched of us, invited partakers of salvation with Him.
When Jesus was criticized by scribes and Pharisees for ministering unto publicans and sinners He taught a beautiful parable about reaching out to the one who is lost. “What man of you, having an hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? And when he hath found it, he layeth it on his shoulders, rejoicing. And when he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, ‘Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost.’ I say unto you, that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons, which need no repentance” (Luke 15:4-7).
The Savior taught that the shepherd did not give up on the one. The shepherd did not assume that the sheep had been taken away by wolves or was otherwise irretrievable. The good shepherd goes after the one, without weighing cost or convenience, until he has restored the little lost lamb to the fold, or at least exhausted all opportunities to do so.
In a 1983 First Presidency message, President Spencer W. Kimball taught that there is always hope for lost sheep, regardless of the perspective of his or her peers. While some may think or say of an individual they know as being beyond reach or unable to touch, President Kimball declared, “Of course he or she can be touched. He or she can always be blessed and helped! There is the promise of scripture. It reads, “Charity never faileth.” (1 Cor. 13:8.) Never! Charity, applied long enough, never fails to work its miracle either in the individual, in us, in both of us, or in others around the individual” (Ensign, June 1983). Like President Kimball, as a follower of the Lord Jesus Christ I believe that charity, suffered long enough, never faileth.
In the Rogers and Hammerstein musical, “The Sound of Music,” Maria, who wants to become a nun, is thought hopeless by nearly everyone around her. Confused and wanting herself as she is forced to depart the convent, she does express a glimmer of hope in God, “When the Lord closes a door, somewhere He opens a window.” While God is not so much a closer of doors, we do that well enough for ourselves and to others, I do believe in the sentiment that He does open windows and pathways where ever possible that we might find our way back to Him. He uses us to provide opportunities for those that may seem hopeless, as in the story did Captain von Trapp and his children help Maria to find the path and open window she sought. They too were blessed for the deed.
President Kimball shared, and the scriptures truly teach, that it is our obligation to strengthen and find those who are struggling or lost. “Our responsibility as brothers and sisters… is to help those who may be lost to find their way, and to help those who have lost that which is precious to find their treasure again. …our desired results can come, and will come more often than any of us imagines, if we will prayerfully enlarge our efforts.”
As Christmas is near, it would be appropriate to consider the story of Ebenezer Scrooge from Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Although the end of the story brings the man redemption, the name Scrooge has become synonymous with a hopelessly unsavable curmudgeon, his “bah humbug” catchphrase curse of Christmas and all things joyous.
As the story tells it, most everyone around considered him an utterly lost cause. For most who encountered him there was no hope for Ebenezer Scrooge. But not so would tell you the ever hopeful Bob Cratchit, his faithful and set upon employee. His sister’s only son Fred was also hopeful for Uncle Ebenezer as he invited him to Christmas every year. I don’t know if Bob Cratchit or Nephew Fred saw something almost no one else could see in Ebenezer, or if they just knew something about Christ and His atoning love that most do not.
Notwithstanding, the Lord clearly knew that there was something redeemable about old Ebenezer, else how would Jacob Marley and three ghosts been permitted to reach out to this wretched man who needed one more chance? Those ghosts made a big impression on Scrooge, but I think without the kindness and hope of Bob Cratchit and Fred, Ebenezer‘s heart may have never softened, and oh what a terrible loss that would have been. Thankfully, it was later and always said of the man that most thought to give up on, “that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge.” Indeed, mankind became the business of Ebenezer Scrooge. He became a man possessing charity, the pure love of Christ.
As Mormon taught, “charity suffereth long, and is kind, and envieth not, and is not puffed up, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil, and rejoiceth not in iniquity but rejoiceth in the truth, beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, if ye have not charity, ye are nothing, for charity never faileth. Wherefore, cleave unto charity, which is the greatest of all, for all things must fail— But charity is the pure love of Christ, and it endureth forever; and whoso is found possessed of it at the last day, it shall be well with him” (Moroni 7:45-47).
Charity is bearing, enduring and unfailing, for love’s sake. Charity is never slamming doors, but opening windows and lighting pathways so that all may be illuminated and see His light. Charity is believing in others even when they give no cause to believe. It is enough that Christ believes, and we follow, believe and have hope in Him.
For who will we be a Bob Cratchit, Nephew Fred or a good shepherd? For who will we provide kindness, patience and hope? For who will we suffer long, extending our Savior’s light and reach? I believe in Jesus Christ, and that no one is beyond His touch. In truth, charity, suffered long enough, never faileth. May we be all found in possession of it, bearing His lost sheep in our humble loving arms. In the name of Jesus Christ, amen.