Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Are You a Respecter of Persons?

by Nicky Smith

How we view others
Several weeks ago I had a dream in which I was in an underground train station. As I was making my way to the train, I encountered many different people. Each person I came across represented a category of people, such as people who are different to me due to a choice they have made, people who are different to me due to the circumstances in which they were born, and so on. I was also shown people who have charity for everyone and people who do not as I experienced the way people acted towards me. 

When I woke up I understand that God was telling me not to be a respecter of persons, but to have charity and love for all His children. How easy it is to be drawn to those who are similar to us, who view life the same way we do! How easy it is to discriminate and show prejudice towards those who are different to us, whether it be due to age, gender, lifestyle choices, upbringing, culture, race, or anything else. I know because I have always been drawn to people who are similar to me, who view life, parenting, and so on in similar ways to me. There is a reason that the idiom "Birds of a feather flock together" exists. But, God wants us to extend our love and interest beyond those who are similar to us. 

God is not a respecter of persons. Peter stated: 
34 ...Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons:
35 But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him.
(Acts 10)
God loves everyone and will work with anyone who obeys Him. Nephi stated that God invites everyone to come to Him and experience the blessings He has in store for them:
...he inviteth them all to come unto him and partake of his goodness; and he denieth none that come unto him, black and white, bond and free, male and female; and he remembereth the heathen; and all are alike unto God, both Jew and Gentile. (2 Nephi 26:33)
If we are to become like God, we have to overcome the tendency to be a respecter of persons. We have to be willing to be friends with, love, and interact with (more than just casually) all people. 

How We View Ourselves

I have come to realize that we can be a respecter of persons also in the way we view ourselves. We may view ourselves as special to God because we are part of a specific religion/movement or we come from a specific country/state. And as a result, we view ourselves as favored or blessed of God because of this particular qualifier, but this goes against God not being a respecter of persons. Instead, as Peter stated (above), those who fear Him and work righteousness are accepted of Him. John wrote that those who keep God's commandments are blessed: "And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight." (1 John 3:22) All blessings are predicated on God's laws and not because we possess some arbitrary characteristic: "when we obtain any blessing from God, it is by obedience to that law upon which it is predicated." (Doctrine and Covenants 130:21) 

There are many false beliefs and incorrect notions about what it means to be blessed. Usually when people say "You are very blessed!" it means that a person has acquired many things, such as a nice home and children. They are living with abundance and have a comfortable lifestyle.

However, when we examine the Beatitudes in the Sermon on the Mount, it is clear that Jesus understands a blessed life to mean something entirely different. Consider the people Jesus is describing:
3 Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
4 Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. 
5 Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. 
6 Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. 
7 Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. 
8 Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. 
9 Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. 
10 Blessed are they which are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
11 Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake. 
12 Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven: for so persecuted they the prophets which were before you. (Matthew 5)
The people described here as blessed are:

those who are poor in spirit (blessed are those whose sense of desperation have led them to realize they are beggars before God and need His help

those who have reason to mourn (blessed are those who have had experiences that lead them to mourn and have a broken heart and contrite spirit -- there is a difference between being sorry and mourning
those who hunger and thirst after righteousness (blessed are those who hunger after God's will and know they aren't "there" yet
those who have reason to offer mercy to others (blessed are those who forgive because someone has done something to warrant that)
those who are peacemakers (blessed are those who have others fighting with them and around them and create peace)
those who are persecuted (blessed are those who are persecuted because they are doing God's will)
those who are reviled (blessed are those who are criticized and insulted because they are doing God's will)
those who are lied about (blessed are those who are lied about because they are doing God's will)

This describes the conditions that God allows us to experience so that he can draw us in. This outlines the experiences often had by those who keep His commandments and are seeking to become more like Jesus. He wants us to turn to him when we mourn, He wants us to rely only on him when we are poor in spirit, and he knows that we are being persecuted because we are living according to His words. 

Imagine observing another (or yourself) who experiences this. Would you consider them blessed? Well, God does! 

So while living God's laws leads to a blessed state, people incorrectly believe that this leads one to a life of comfort and abundance. Instead, what many do not realize is that living God's laws rarely leads to comfort. Living God's laws almost always involves difficult and painful experiences. Comfort is not a guarantee of blessedness, while its absence is not a sign of not being blessed.

Paul similarly wrote that an abundance of worldly things does not imply that one possesses godliness and holiness: 

5 Perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself.
6 But godliness with contentment is great gain.
7 For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out.
8 And having food and raiment let us be therewith content.
9 But they that will be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and hurtful lusts, which drown men in destruction and perdition.
10 For the love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows.
11 But thou, O man of God, flee these things; and follow after righteousness, godliness, faith, love, patience, meekness. (1 Timothy 6)
As I have sought to be sanctified and be completely obedient to God, there have been difficult experiences, many of which I would never choose for myself. I have come to realize that in my current sinful state I am not able to access all the blessings I thought were available to me. I am not as blessed as I thought I was. That does not mean God has not blessed me; rather I realize there are a lot of blessings I am missing out on because of my sins. I have come to realize that I am further from God that I thought I was. I have come to realize that I have been and am so blind to my weaknesses and sins. These realizations and other experiences the Lord has given me have been painful and at times caused me distress. But, every time I seek to draw closer to God as a result. 

In the end, God is not a respecter of persons. He invites us all. He loves us all. He desires all to come to Him. But, in order to be blessed, we have to keep His laws. The blessings He has in store for us are great, but they are not brought about through comfortable, easy living. The experiences involved in keeping His laws are usually challenging and difficult. 

As we seek to become more like Jesus, we will learn to love everyone regardless of their background, characteristics, culture, and choices they make. 


  1. Amen! This goes along with a very specific phrase in a scripture that describes Charity: "Seeketh NOT her own" that has been stuck in my mind over the years and goes along perfectly with this post. THank you for sharing and putting the pictures up as well. Great for us visual learners. :)


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