Tuesday, June 12, 2012

An Open Letter

I write this letter in response to a text message I received last night from one of the most important people in my life. Of course at some level I'm writing this letter to myself. 

Dear ---,

          Love doesn't condemn, so it has no need to forgive. If you're worried about other people forgiving you—condemning you—then you have already condemned yourself, which is not my responsibility. I mean to say: I'm not to blame if you're worried about condemnation and forgiveness (the Law). It's not my place to condemn you or forgive, and if I imagine that it is, I haven't spent enough time in front of a mirror.

          If you're right about us and it's true that we condemn you, that's not your problem. Don't condemn us for our failure and, as a consequence, become like us.

          The Gospel—life—isn't about forgiveness. Too often we forget that fact and use a perverse obsession with guilt and innocence to justify ourselves. Mostly we do this because we want to control how people feel about us. My advice: don't worry about how we feel about you, and don't bother justifying yourself. You were justified before you were born. Or you never will be. It amounts to the same thing.

          I remind you of what you've taught me: Love doesn't accuse, it doesn't impose, it doesn't demand, it doesn't require. Love is or it is not—either way, with or without it, it  makes us free. Guilt, innocence, condemnation, forgiveness—those words belong to those of us who are enslaved by an attachment to the Law, which has never saved us and never will.

          For my part: I love you. In the freedom of my love for you, we live. Yes: not always, perhaps, to our liking. But our love for each other frees us from transforming our failures into sins.

          Jesus told Mary Magdelene: "Neither do I condemn thee: go, and sin no more." The first clause contains the essence of Christian ethics. The second clause was not a commandment but a compassionate appeal. Jesus didn't forgive Mary: she had no need of forgiveness. She, like you, is beyond forgiveness. Together we all abide in the grace of love, free. Whether we know it or not.

Your ---,


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