God loves all of His children, but that doesn’t mean He is pleased with all of our decisions. Does He love us when we do wrong? Yes, more than we can imagine. He values us. He sees our potential, and He wants to help us achieve it. But He does not condone our wrong choices, and those choices do not bring us closer to Him.
“The Lord esteemeth all flesh in one,” said Nephi. Then he added, “He that is righteous is favored of God” (1 Nephi 17:35). God doesn’t have arbitrary favorites. But our relationship with Him is strengthened when we make wise choices.
Eli served as the high priest in Israel. When he learned that his sons, who were priests, were behaving horribly, he reproved them but took no action to remove them from their positions of authority. A prophet came to him with a stern message from God:
Wherefore kick ye at my sacrifice and at mine offering, which I have commanded in my habitation; and honourest thy sons above me…?
Wherefore the Lord God of Israel saith, I said indeed that thy house, and the house of thy father, should walk before me for ever: but now the Lord saith, Be it far from me; for them that honour me I will honour, and they that despise me shall be lightly esteemed.1 Samuel 2:29-30, italics added
Whether he knew it or not, Eli’s loyalties were misplaced. He valued his relationship with his sons more than his relationship with God, and his consequent actions had distanced him from God.
In the 1924 Olympic Games, Scottish runner Eric Liddell refused to compete in his best event, the 100-meter race, because the heats would be held on Sunday. As he prepared to compete in a different event on a Friday, the 400-meter race, someone handed him a folded piece of paper which read, “In the old book it says: ‘He that honours me I will honour.’ Wishing you the best of success always.” Liddell won that race and set a new world record in the process.(See “Golden Scots: Eric Liddell, running to immortality,” BBC Sports, 20 July 2012. See also the quote from the masseur on https://www.ericliddell.org/gallery.)
It’s nice when people get rewarded for making good choices, but it doesn’t always happen that way, at least not immediately. Relationships aren’t transactional, and our investment in a relationship can never be dependent on an expected outcome. Even if Eric hadn’t won that race, the note would have still been accurate: his relationship with God was stronger because he had given up something that mattered immensely to him in order to show respect for God on His holy day.
Today, I will strive to honor God. I will remember that wise choices, which demonstrate my love for Him, will bring me closer to Him.