We heard from President Henry B. Eyring at this week's Christmas Devotional, "Each act of kindness to anyone becomes a kindness to (our Savior)." Perhaps it was the word "kindness" that struck me, but it was something of an epiphany to realize how truly easy it is to do kind things for the Savior to whom we am eternally indebted.
President Eyring's words were, after all, a reiteration of an oft-repeated injunction: "When ye are in the service of your fellow beings ye are only in the service of your God." And he explained why kindness to others qualifies as a kindness to the Savior, "because (Christ) loves all of Heavenly Father's Children."
I was reminded this past week of how truly comprehensive the love of the Savior is for each and every individual on the earth as I read the "Parable of the Two Sons" and the "Parable of the Laborers." In the first a father asks son number one to go and work in his vineyard. The son answers, "I will not" — a frank, fairly rude refusal. However, the son subsequently reconsiders and "afterward he repented, and went," and worked devotedly to make amends for his initial defiance of the father's command. The second son is asked to do the same. He promises, "I go, sir; and went not."
The teaching moment in the parable comes when Jesus asks which of the two "did the will of his father?" Clearly it is the son who was sinful but repented and obeyed his father's will. Jesus compares this son to the despised individuals in his day, "publicans and harlots," yet those will "go into the kingdom of God" because they repented and became obedient disciples of Christ. The designation "harlot" tells us the depth of the Savior's love for all his children and the comprehensive reality of his Atonement — that even those who consider themselves the vilest of sinners can be washed clean through the atoning blood of Jesus Christ and inherit eternal glory.
In the second, "Parable of the Laborers," Christ describes a man who contracts early in the day for laborers to work in his vineyard. He agrees to pay them a penny a day. In the third, sixth and ninth hours he hires more laborers. At the 11th hour, near the end of the day, he hires more. When he pays his workers every man receives a penny. Some complain, "These last have (worked) but one hour, and thou hast made them equal unto us, which have borne the burden and heat of the day." The Lord responds, "Friend, ... didst not thou agree with me for a penny? ... Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own (money)? Is thine eye evil, because I am good (and merciful)?"
The parable is rich with meaning. Those that are good and faithful their whole lives will receive the blessing of eternal life. Yet so merciful is our master that those who come to the gospel late also have the privilege of inheriting, as they exhibit obedience and faith, the blessings of eternity. Further, the Lord gently reproves those that complain, wondering why they do not share his tender feelings and desire for the salvation of all.
If the depth and breadth of Christ's love for his children is not clear in these parables, add one last incident that reveals how infinite the love of our Savior. In 1918, President Joseph F. Smith had a vision of those spirits who had departed this life. He beheld the "spirits of the just, who had been faithful in the testimony of Jesus while they lived in mortality." To these righteous souls the Son appeared but "unto the wicked he did not go, and among the ungodly and the unrepentant who had defiled themselves while in the flesh, his voice was not raised." Were these last spirits then lost to salvation?
We learn that God's concern for the salvation of each individual transcends even the grave. To those spirits the gospel was to be preached, "Behold, from among the righteous (Christ) organized his forces and appointed messengers, clothed with power and authority, and commissioned them to go forth and carry the light of the gospel to them that were in darkness, even to ALL the spirits of men; and thus was the gospel preached to the dead."
At this Christmas season we not only rejoice in the knowledge that the babe that was born in the manger was God's son, that he grew in wisdom and understanding, that he lived a perfect life and that he atoned for our sins. We also glory in the knowledge that his perfect love for each one of us is boundless, that it crosses earthly time and space, and even extends beyond the grave.