Eight cows?

That’s unheard of!

“No man on this island has every paid a dowry of eight cows for even the best woman, and Mahana… well, she’s not that great.” Johnny could have paid his bride-to-be’s father much less and still would have managed to marry her, but he wanted to pay more. In an inspiring display of faith in who she could be, the dreamboat trader who could have married any girl on his island invested in this woman, Mahana. She was shy, unkempt and seemingly had little going for her, so Johhny’s behavior didn’t make sense to anyone in the community. In spite of her present situation, Johnny had made up his mind. He was going to marry her, and it would cost him a fortune.

The couple goes through the ceremony and take off for their honeymoon and the short film based on a story by Patricia McGerr ends with their return to the island and Mahana happens to now be beautiful and smiley, probably can cook and keep house like the best of them. She’s become the wonderful woman her husband knew she could be, because he believed in her. The community is shocked when they begin to understand what Johhny always saw… and I start gagging.

Faith in each other comes in second only to our faith in and reliance on Christ. Believing in your neighbor might be one of the most substantial means to expressing that neighborly love which we’ve been commanded to have for all people. I struggle with this short film created by the LDS church over 40 years ago because it places expectations on a person’s behavior based on another human’s investment in them. Let’s look at this in light of Jesus Christ and the church…

God gave his only son so that we could approach God in a covenantal relationship of grace. No bigger investment has ever been made, and lets be honest here, it isn’t like we’re that great. Every one of us displays petty, selfish, ridiculous behavior at one point or another, every day. It doesn’t seem like a sound investment.

Since God has paid so much to buy us back from sin and death, what expectations are placed on us? By Him? By each other? How much pressure did Mahana experience, knowing that such a great price had been paid for her? What would have happened if she hadn’t become the sterling example of a wife we saw at the end of the movie?

Christian behavior has become such a bloody conundrum because we have placed expectations on our neighbors and ourselves. All of us understand and the situation of our salvation and hopefully return to Christ as much gratitude and affection as possible. We’re left wondering if it’s enough. I know my flaws, the jealousies, prejudices and malice that hide in my heart and genuinely desire to be rid of them, which is good, but again, is that enough? In my six short years as a Christian, I’ve had expectations placed on me by people in and outside the church and I’m not the only one.

The best part of the liberty we experience in Christ stems from the fact that we don’t have to perform. Standing inside His love requires accepting it and that’s it. As for behavior… it seems that with adequate time with the Holy Spirit, that will improve– but listen to Him a little more and people a little less. In other words, walk in freedom knowing that your salvation is secure, no matter what others might say.