Personal Online Journal

Thursday, December 31, 2015

The Release We Are Looking For

In Falling to Heaven: The Surprising Path to Happiness, James L. Ferrell discusses the fantasy that is forgiving oneself.
Jesus showed us the way in his exchange with the woman taken in adultery. The scribes and Pharisees brought the woman before him in another attempt to entrap him in the web of the law. “Master,” they said, feigning respect, “this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou?” 208 Jesus didn’t immediately respond, but crouched down and wrote with his finger in the dirt, as if he hadn’t heard them. The scripture says that they “continued asking him”—they badgered him—whereupon he stood up and uttered one of the most oft-quoted lines in all of holy writ. “He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.”209 He didn’t deny what the law said, but he taught them what Paul and James later wrote about—that the law catches and condemns all of us, as all of us are convicted as transgressors of the law and are therefore, effectively, guilty of all. One by one, the men who stood round were “convicted by their own conscience” and left, one guilty soul at a time. 
Jesus’ statement to these men was meant not only for them. He was teaching a principle—a truth that was crucial for the woman to understand as well, a truth that those of us who might be struggling in the misguided quest to forgive ourselves have not yet fully understood. All are guilty under the law, a guilt that separates us from God. What does it mean to forgive ourselves when we are, in effect, “guilty of all”? Clearly, the power of such forgiveness is not within us; the guilty cannot render themselves innocent. Only the judge—in this case, the great and Eternal Judge 210—can do that. 
So “forgiving oneself” is a misnomer. We, ourselves, are not the aggrieved party, and we, as the guilty, cannot render ourselves innocent. We are just feeling bad for having done bad, and we want to find a way to quit grinding our own faces in the sand. And here, Jesus’ final words to the woman, in combination with his teaching that all are guilty, provides the release we are looking for but in all the wrong places: “Woman, where are those thine accusers?” he asked. “Hath no man condemned thee?” She answered, “No man, Lord.” Then Jesus said, “Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more.” 211 
Think about those words: Neither do I condemn thee. If she understood who it was that was telling her this, she would be released forever from any perceived need to forgive herself. For this was the great and Eternal Judge himself—our “advocate” with the Father 212—telling her that he did not condemn her. And if he didn’t, then why should she still feel the need to condemn herself? The guilt we feel in our hearts can be taken from us only “through the merits of [the] Son.” 213 It is the adversary who tries to get us to worry about forgiving ourselves. 
("Forgiving Oneself" James L. Ferrell. Oct 25, 2014)

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