I had to momentarily step out of my Sunday School class full of robust 12 year old boys last Sabbath. I instructed the most mature of boys to conduct a discussion about “the importance of being imperfect.” A couple of the boys balked for a moment with “but perfection is the goal…” and then they turned to an earnest exploration of the topic. When I returned a couple minutes later, having retrieved my smart phone, which is also my full set of scriptures, they were deep in debate. I summarized the exchange with this analogy: “I could wrap myself in the walls of my little house, and the church. I could read the scriptures and pray and go to my meetings and give money to charity. I could life a life that was very sheltered in which I was doing very little wrong because I never exposed myself to error or conflict or the ugly and dangerous world outside my home. But in doing nothing wrong, could I possibly be doing anything of value?” The boys thought for a moment. A few pairs of eyes lit up and hands raised, “No, you have to be doing something to make a difference!” was one answer. “You have to make mistakes in order to learn and grow,” was another. And one very wise boy said, “You can’t ever really be perfect if you don’t know how to overcome imperfection and that means that you have to BE imperfect in this life!”
I am very proud to say my Sunday School students came to understand one of the most important truths they will learn as Christians: You can’t become clean and worthy to inherit God’s kingdom without first getting a little dirty.
Christians in America have enjoyed riches and comforts among the greatest the temporal world has ever had to offer. The combination of traditional values, the active exercise of Faith, self-discipline, and the value of hard work has produced a generation which has access to all of the pleasures, pastimes, and desirable things which amuse the human creature. These blessings are earned, but they have, for many, had the unintended effect of fostering complacency. Those of whom I speak have strove to elevate themselves and their families above the muck of the world by applying principles of self-reliance, religious activity, and dis-engagement from the unwholesome things in our culture. And, unfortunately, they have also taken their talents, strength, and righteousness away from the front lines at which we must confront evil on a national level. We need them here on the ground, in the mud of the fray, where error and conflict are replete-the only setting in which the hard work of regaining our liberty and restoring the Constitution of the United States can be done.
Many Christians have become hobbled by their faith. Dependence upon God, for some, has become a co-dependence of inaction. Such people refuse to act in response to real or perceived evil, first, because they worry that if they do something bold themselves it reveals a lack of faith in God who will provide. Second, they fear that confronting evil will somehow soil them, that they will be dirtied in the conflict-that if they get stuck in the mire of conflict that they will be permanently stained and disqualified for salvation.
I contend that the opposite is true. Authentic faith in the God of Creation requires bold action. Heavenly Father is a God of activity and audacious processes. The creation itself is ever churning and heaving through cycles of cataclysm and renewal. Heavenly Father confronted the dark and impelled it be light, and it obeyed. Heavenly Father is a God of tough love. In the councils of Heaven, being bound by the implacable law of moral agency, he lost one-third of his children to the auspices of the Evil One. And with the implementation of the Plan of Salvation, he unleashed the merciless conditions of mortality, to test and batter and refine His children within the dirty, bloody, tearful operations of eternal progression.
Real faith in God requires us to be bold as well. It is not an unseemly or immoral thing to stand fast and hard against the evils of our time-the closing hours of the latter-days. It is God who spurs the principled impulse to withstand the smothering corruptions that threaten our families, our freedom, and Christianity itself.
American Christians need to wake up to the terrible realities of our Jewish and Christian brothers and sisters around the world who fight in bloody battles for their beliefs and their very lives. They are no less holy and good because they wrestle with the unholy ideologies and individuals that would extinguish them and their God.
The Apostle Peter, in a reasonable effort to protect Jesus Christ, smote off the ear of one of the guards who was escorting him to a show trial. Jesus restored the man, not because he deserved to be healed, but to teach the principle of mercy and as a testimony of His Divinity. In the classic Book of Mormon story, the young prophet Nephi is instructed by God to cut off the head of the corrupt and powerful Laban. Nephi resists the command until the Lord tells him, “Slay him, for the Lord hath delivered him into they hands; Behold the Lord slayeth the wicked to bring forth his righteous purposes. It is better than one man should perish than that a nation should dwindle and perish in unbelief.”
Our America, our dear country, is dwindling and perishing in unbelief. Too many Christians sit safely within the walls of their well-ordered lives, doing good works, hardly aware of the multitudes of enemies that strike at our rights to worship, associate, think, and live. It’s time for the Americans who are most blessed and educated in things of value to step out into the mud. Get a little dirty, confront the enemies of liberty, whether they be institutions, ideologies, or individuals, face to face. We need more Christians (I hope you Mormons are listening) to get dirty in the hard work of saving America. If we don’t act with more boldness in numbers the adversary will eat us alive. The adversary did not receive the title “The Dragon,” for nothing.
By Marjorie Haun 1/17/13