Well, I am home. Yes, it has been a while, but let’s not speak of it. Firstly, because there is no way that I could boil down all that I learned in my 18 months serving as a full-time missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints into a single post, and secondly, because I know that the life lessons I extracted there will likely garnish all my future ideas and insights and come to light eventually.
Today, I want to focus on a story from the New Testament. It comes from the 17th chapter of Luke. Our Lord, while traveling through Samaria and Galilee to Jerusalem, came across a group of lepers. They had been cast out of the city due to their contagious ailment, and were forbidden to come in close contact with others they could potentially infect. Thus, the account tells that they “stood afar off” and “lifted up their voices” unto Him, pleading for mercy. Christ, as we see evidenced throughout His ministry, did not let their plea fall on deaf ears. He instructed them: “Go shew yourselves unto the priests.” The scripture then clarifies that, “as they went, they were cleansed.”
Now, let us talk for a moment about faith. The author of Hebrews tell us that “faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, emphasis added). Or in other words, we might say that FAITH is different from BELIEF because faith is the RESULT of belief, or the power that motivates us to act upon our belief. Believing in things may make us happy or help us face the world with optimism, but only true faith works miracles. And so it was in this case. For these ten lepers, merely believing in Christ was not enough. Even seeing Him and pleading with Him for help was insufficient. In order for them to experience the miracle they sought, they had to ACT UPON the direction they received. “AS THEY WENT, they were cleansed.”
Yet that is not the most enlightening part of the story. The true teaching comes in the verses that follow.
And one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned back, and with a loud voice glorified God,
And fell down on his face at his feet, giving him thanks: and he was a Samaritan.
And Jesus answering said, were there not ten cleansed? but where are the nine?
There are not found that returned to give glory to God, save this stranger.
And he said unto him, Arise, go thy way: thy faith hath made thee whole.Luke 17:15-19
This story is famous for teaching us the importance of gratitude, of taking the time to say “thank you.” And though that is a great aspect which should not be overlooked (I recommend reading these remarks by Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf on the power of gratitude if you have extra time), that is not what I want to focus on today.
In this story, Christ makes a very interesting point through his conversation with the leper who returned. We know from his statement that all 10 were cleansed, equally, as they exercised their faith in going to see the priests. We know not what happened to the others, or what their first reaction was, upon discovering they had been healed. Perhaps their first thought was to run home to their family, from whom they may have been separated many months or even years. Perhaps their thought was to continue to the priests in the temple, and there give praise to God. Whatever became of them, we have no place to speculate. We can, however, learn from the Savior’s comments that there was a difference in the faith of the nine, compared to the faith of the one.
All 10 were cleansed. That is known. There is nothing to suggest that it was some kind of “test,” or that the disease was brought back upon the nine due to their failure to return with the one. All 10 were cleansed. But only to the one who “returned to give glory to God” did Christ pronounce His blessing, “Arise, and go thy way: THY FAITH hath made thee WHOLE.” In His eyes, it seems, there is a difference between being physically cleansed from an outward ailment, and being entirely healed through the Savior’s atoning power.
What kind of faith, then, is necessary to have that kind of 100% healing? What does it take to be “made whole”? The Book of Mormon has many powerful lectures on faith, but one of the most inspiring to me is found in the 12th chapter of Ether. Moroni recounts to us many miracles that have been witnessed throughout the scriptural history, and attributes each one to the power of genuine faith in Jesus Christ. In the center of this sermon, Moroni even shares a very personal experience through which his faith was strengthened. He had begun to doubt his ability to accomplish the task which the Lord had given to him. He began to question the Lord and express his concerns, at which point he received the reply:
…if men come unto me I will show unto them their weakness. I give unto men weakness that they may be humble; and my grace is sufficient for all men that humble themselves before me; for if they humble themselves before me, and have faith in me, then will I make weak things become strong unto them.Ether 12:27
That, then, is the secret. We must choose to come unto Him, humble ourselves, and have faith. We must be the one who not only exercises faith in Jesus Christ, but are willing to acknowledge our full dependance upon Him. Stated even more clearly, Christ invites us: “return unto me, and repent of your sins, and be converted, that I may heal you” (3 Nephi 9:13, emphasis added). Though all 10 of the lepers were freed from the disease of their flesh, only the one who chose to COME UNTO CHRIST received the blessing of being fully healed.
Each of us faces that same decision. Each of us is, in some way, afflicted. Each of us is, if you will, a leper. Desperate, hopeful, and heartbroken. Each of us needs the Savior. And He is always here. His arms are outstretched and He WANTS to help us. He blesses us each and every day. He watches over and protects us. He carries us through our trials, “cleansing” us. But it is up to us to more fully return to Him, to more thoroughly repent, to more sincerely acknowledge His hand in all things and express our gratitude. It is up to us, through humble and consistent study, meditation, and prayer, to come unto Christ…and be made whole. 🙂