One challenge today is finding unity amongst diversity of beliefs, backgrounds, cultures, desires, goals, and ideas. How can we seek for unifying ideas in such a time as this? The answer may lie within past experiences and words spoken by historical figures, lyricists, and everyday people.
First, what will happen if individuals continue to interact with hostility towards others? Martin Luther King Jr. described the end result of our interactions if we approach one another with hatred and anger in the following statement:
“Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community? , 64-65
Rather than focusing time and energy on emotionally-charged arguments and disagreements because of different beliefs and values, we can root out the hatred and anger by choosing, instead, to love others regardless of differences. Jesus Christ exemplifies perfect, infinite, and eternal love for all and teaches us to “love one another;” He reminds us through his example that as he loves us and all members of the human family, he expects us to do the same.
It is hard to love someone who may declare your views as wrong, senseless, ancient, sinful, or godless, but it is even harder to love someone when you choose to be intolerant of them as a human being for your own reasons. When faced with differing opinions or views, why not listen without choosing to criticize, hate, or retaliate? In an article published in The Liahona, Lori Fuller Sosa brings awareness to the following idea: “If we could just listen without trying to change someone’s mind, I think we’d be surprised what we might learn.” Imagine if we all followed this line of thinking. Would it bring more unity?
Another idea, brought to the center of media through John Lennon’s lyrics nearly 50 years ago, speculates on the outcome of our world if our lives were rid of earthly goods, and we sought to live on earth, harmoniously.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.
Imagine no possessions, I wonder if you can. No need for greed or hunger. A brotherhood of man. Imagine all the people, sharing all the world.
You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be live as one. Original Lyrics by John Lennon taken from Pass It On
Notice how Lennon erases the concept of greed and hunger. Is this what divides the nations? Money and power? In 1976, Howard W. Hunter stated, “It is the proposition that everyone has a price, that material things finally matter most, that ultimately you can buy anything in this world for money.” This “false but fundamental proposition,” removes our hearts far from loving others and prioritizes lustful and prideful pursuits. In Lennon’s lyrics, he shifted the focus from temporal possessions to a “brotherhood of man.” Ultimately, placing pleasures and monetary value above our need to care for the poor, the hungry, and the needy will divide us. (This refers to the need to care for those within our reach, including ourselves. This can refer to being poor, hungry, and needy in a physical, mental, and spiritual sense.). Conversely, coming together and unifying our efforts to support the weak and the weary can create unity (Again, “weak” and “weary” can refer to ourselves as we face trial, hardship, addiction, and affliction and other daily needs; see also the words given by a compassionate leader during a time when contention did not exist in one nation).
It can be difficult to unify with others if we hold hostility or a grudge toward others for their wrongdoings toward us. I had the the important reminder recently to forgive others. Even ourselves. We may feel wronged by another’s actions, which can in turn create vengeful feelings. How can we move past anger, hatred, bitterness, or retaliation if we retain resentment within our hearts? To illustrate the importance of forgiveness, consider the following experience:
When the [Jesus] taught His disciples what to do when they felt offended or received trespasses (see Matt. 18:15–35), it seemed to them to be a new doctrine. “If thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” (Matt. 18:15). The Savior’s words about forgiving others required a significant adjustment in attitude. They had been schooled in the notion of “an eye for an eye” (Matt. 5:38; see Lev. 24:20). Peter, wanting to be sure he understood the meaning of the teaching, asked, “Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” (Matt. 18:21). Peter was probably aware of the rabbinical requirement that the offender make the first move to resolve the offense and that the offended person forgive only two or three times (See James E. Talmage, Jesus the Christ, 3rd ed. (1916), 391–93).
Jesus answered with clarity, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven” (Matt. 18:22). In other words, there must be no constraints, numerical or otherwise, placed on our forgiveness of others.
The Savior then told His disciples a parable so that they might more fully appreciate, remember, and apply the lesson that we must forgive everyone (see Matt. 18:23–32). Cecil O. Samuelson Jr., “Words of Jesus: Forgiveness,” Ensign or Liahona, Feb. 2003, 28
This is the story of the servant who owed the king 10,000 talents. This debt has been compared to an astronomical amount of money. According to one source, a single talent weighed 75.5 pounds or approximately 34.24 kilograms (Reader’s Digest Atlas of the Bible (Pleasantville, New York: The Reader’s Digest Association, 1981), pp. 24–25; J. D. Douglas, The New Bible Dictionary (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), 1962, p. 1320). Another source shows a talent equated to 6000 denarii which each denarius was a silver coin that weighed 60 grains (Gehman, pp. 631–32.). In 1987, “at $5.42 an ounce, the silver in one denarius would be worth almost 68¢… Thus, a talent would come to slightly under $4,080” (1 grain = 0.00228571 ounces; 60 grains of silver = 0.13714286 ounces of silver).
In 2021, this talent would be worth more.The servant was not able to repay the debt, so the king ordered him and his family to be sold into slavery. The desperate servant petitioned for time and patience, promising to pay all. Touched by his sincerity, the king was moved with compassion and forgave his very large debt. The servant, therefore, fell down and worshiped him.
This same servant, who had just been the recipient of the king’s wonderful act of mercy and forgiveness, immediately went in search of a fellow servant who owed him 100 pence, the probable equivalent of a few U.S. dollars. He rudely demanded immediate payment. When the fellow servant pleaded for time and patience, the first servant was not willing to extend what he had just freely received from the king. He had his fellow servant cast into prison until he could pay the debt. This callous act was observed by other servants and duly reported to the king. “And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him.” Jesus then added this postscript, “So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matt. 18:34–35).
We all share different perspectives, ideas, beliefs, and values. I once shared the view of hatred towards nearly everyone I met. I came to see, I was not listening, I was not loving, and my main cares and concerns lied within the walls of a mall, and the latest trends in music and apparel, not in my neighbor or myself. Though I struggle at times to love others as the Savior did, I am trying. This love has changed my life. I know for myself the impact pure Christlike love can have on an individual. This love has the power to change hearts, so that we can become one as Christ taught us to become. Ultimately, we can seek unity in diversity as we strive to love one another, listen to each other, and shift our focus from material wants to care for those around us and, as a famous lyricst sings, “live as one.“
Cecil O. Samuelson Jr., “Words of Jesus: Forgiveness,” Ensign or Liahona, Feb. 2003, 28
See John Lennon’s video here (30) Imagine – YouTube