Friday, November 8, 2019

Jarom 1:10-12 -- On Threats and Boundaries

"And it came to pass that the prophets of the Lord did threaten the people of Nephi, according to the word of God, that if they did not keep the commandments, but should fall into transgression, they should be destroyed from off the face of the land.
Wherefore, the prophets, and the priests, and the teachers, did labor diligently, exhorting with all long-suffering the people to diligence; teaching the law of Moses, and the intent for which it was given; persuading them to look forward unto the Messiah, and believe in him to come as though he already was. And after this manner did they teach them.
And it came to pass that by so doing they kept them from being destroyed upon the face of the land; for they did prick their hearts with the word, continually stirring them up unto repentance."
Jarom 1:10-12

It's interesting that the word "threaten" is used here, because we don't usually expect the gospel to presented that way, at least normally, although certainly there are places in the scriptures where a harsher approach is used in order to wake people up--for instance striking down Paul/Saul or Alma the Younger, or destruction is threatened/promised and then carried out if the people are too wicked.  And although we don't usually favor the "fire and brimstone" sermons or way of looking at things, I wonder if we really need that sometimes, because we become too hardened for anything else to get through.

I guess I think of it as sort of a tough-love approach.  Although that term has often been abused to justify cruelty, which of course I am not advocating, I think the original idea is a good one--that when we love people we still have to set behavioral boundaries.  Love doesn't mean, especially with God, that we can just do whatever the crap we want with no consequences.  We can love people without being overly permissive, and indeed we often need to teach children the consequences of their actions or defend ourselves from being used or abused.  At work, even if our supervisor likes us, that doesn't mean we get a free pass to not do our jobs.  There have to be limits, and when we try to use love as a lever to get our way or ignore our responsibilities, then it is we who are in the wrong.

And so with these verses.  The prophets warn and even threaten, because we need to know the boundaries.  They also teach and persuade in a lot nicer ways, as we see in these verses as well.  God wants to bless us and help us, but he can't do that if we are continually convinced that if he *really* loved us he would let us do whatever we wanted.  That isn't going to fly with God, just like it wouldn't fly with a parent whose kid was convinced that heroin was their new career path.  God isn't going to just shrug and let us die.  He is going to warn us of the consequences of our actions, and where our current road leads.

Today, let's work on listening and changing our ways instead of believing that we know better than God does.  Let's heed the prophet's warning voice, even when it is harsher than we expect.  Perhaps it is something we really need to take to heart.

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