One of the most challenge things in being a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is having to constantly be aware of one’s on going work toward perfection. Many times, as a Mormon, the constant teaching of, “you have to do this in order for this to happen,” came across the pulpit, at firesides and in Sunday School. The tragic loss of this message is that most people who have left the Church finally realize the real freedom in a relationship with Jesus Christ and not being obligated to prove one’s self-worth to God.
The simple message of the Gospel, and of the sacrifice the Savior made, is diluted, confused and wrapped in a more humanistic effort to please God. The reality is that because God is sovereign, loving and merciful, he meets us where we are at in the present moment – not where he desires us to be in order to bless us, redeem us, or even forgive us when we falter. Unfortunately, the Mormon faith, it’s leaders and many members seemed to have lost sight of this important truth.
Sitting in counsel with the clinical director at the non-profit agency I work at, she said, if you really want to make an impact on the client’s life, you have to meet them where they are at and not where you desire them to be. What is being said here is that as much as I want the client’s that I work with to be free from their addiction and moving into a more healthier lifestyle (which is nothing wrong to have such desire); the reality is that they may not even be ready to be at that point in their own recovery.
In essence, I have to meet them exactly where they are at in the present moment and be aware of their own brokenness, their own perception, and their own challenges and obstacles. Because, for me to constantly desire them to be where I want them to be, they are going to have that much more resistance to change. However, if I meet them where they are at in the present moment without judgment, criticism or expectation, they may eventually find the means necessary to slowly move into their own recovery and change will inevitably happen.
The sovereign creator of the universe also meets each and every one of us where we are at in the present moment. Regardless of what we have done up to that point. Regardless of what may or may not happen after that point. In the present moment of our mortal existence, our loving God meets us. Of course, His desire is to see that we move into a changed lifestyle and have a deep, intimate and meaningful relationship with us. However, that will eventually come to fruition. What matters is in that moment God meets us, we are right where we need to be for him to be there.
Throughout the Bible, we see exactly this pattern of God – meeting people exactly where they are at in the moment of their own need. The savior of the world met people exactly where they were at in the moment of their own need. Without criticism, judgment or expectation. These individuals did nothing to prove to God their worth in meeting their presenting needs.
A simple message, the Gospel, in that we all come to faith at that precise moment when the Grace of God floods our hearts and changes us into a new being – a new person because of the power of the Cross. We did nothing to earn it. Nowhere in the Bible does God say, or Christ say, that we have to first come before him with clean hands and clean hearts. For example, the woman caught in adultery was brought before Christ. The people were prepared to stone her as it was the custom and applicable to the law. However, Christ simply wrote in the sand and asked which one of them is free from sin? When he looked up and sees only the woman, his words are comforting – neither do I judge you, go and sin no more! (John 8:2-11, ESV)
Christ knew the hearts of those surrounding the woman. He met them exactly where they were at in their own sinful state. There was no statement of judgment. he who is without sin, cast the first stone. The only person present that was without sin was Jesus. Stoning, at that time, was a form of condemnation and punishment based on judging one’s behavior. The crowd realized they were not perfect in that present moment. The woman, realized she was not under condemnation and judgment for what she was caught doing.
Today, many members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are being mislead that they must perfect themselves and possess clean hands and a clean heart before God will even consider approaching them. Each member has to stand in counsel with someone to confess their sins in order to determine whether or not they are specifically “deemed worthy” to engage in some of the more esoteric rituals and forms of worship. One speck of sin in that persons life (where they are not following the direct commands) may bar them from participation. However, the scripture says that we are not perfect – only because of the sacrifice Christ made are we perfected in Him, because of His righteousness (Colossians 1:22, ESV) and we stand blameless and without reproach before a Sovereign and merciful God.
Even as Christians, we may stumble and may have at some point walked away from the faith – however, God is still merciful and just in that he does met us where we are at – not where he desires us to be. No man has the right to say to another, “come, clean your garments and rinse the filth from off you before coming into the presence of God.” For we all stand filthy, no matter how clean we may seem to believe. Only God can cleanse us from all unrighteousness and that by the power of Jesus Christ.