thinkingI have hit an awesome chapter in Richard Rohr’s Falling Upward and I am trying to unpackage it.

Every time God forgives us, God is saying that God’s own rules do not matter as much as the relationships that God wants to create with us. (pp. 56-57)

I always thought of forgiveness as being like taking a Mulligan, something bad will not be held against me. But there was always an inner compulsion to try to keep the rules and a deception that somehow I could. While I always said the relationship was based on forgiveness and grace, I embraced another mental track that upheld the importance of the rules for acceptability by God and even for me to accept myself.

In fact, when I abandoned all hope of any real significant rule-keeping and begin to grasp the absurd, scandalous nature of grace, a whole new motivation perked up within me that had nothing to do with earning acceptance and everything to with knowing I am accepted and loved no matter what.

Jesus is never upset with sinners (check it out); he is upset with people who do not think they are sinners. (p. 59)

He must have seemed like a crazy man. People must have been telling him all the time, “Don’t you know who this is?” Yet, He kept infuriating the “righteous” and endearing himself to the “sinners.” Christians have turned it all around by condemning “sinners” and exalting the “righteous,” earning their reputation for being judgmental.  

Much of organized religion tends to be peopled by folks who have a mania for some ideal order, which is never true. So they are seldom happy or content. (p. 60)

Our minds force us to try to make sense of things, so we form systems and theologies, but they are too confining for reality and even for our own personal experience. Usually, that means we try harder to defend our point of view, but reality always violates it. Isn’t it better to live life as an adventure, rather than having to figure out how every thing fits in our system and trying to squish it in.

Salvation is not sin perfectly avoided, as the ego would prefer, but in fact, salvation is sin turned on its head and used for our favor. (p. 60)

Normally we think of personal sin as a haunting evil curse, but it has many wonderful functions.
It causes us to think that maybe God knows what he is doing and wants to keep us from hurting ourselves and others.
It tells us that we are not focusing on something positive in our lives, and are, instead, opting for a substitute or prostitution of some good gift.
It helps us reach the end of ourselves and get ready to embrace grace.


About Glenn

Glenn Hager is a blogger, former newspaper columnist, and author of two books, An Irreligious Faith and Free Range Faith.
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  1. Pingback: ‘Then you have not understood them’

  2. Oh man, this is unhelpful and not at all productive conversation, but it just makes me think ‘well am I the sinner or the pharisee’? Because I think I’m a terrible person to a degree, but I often justify the awful things I do and focus on the good, and at the same time I am loathe to use the word ‘sin’ about anything. I mean, I rarely, if ever, use it, unless I’m discussing sin as a concept or werreting about why God would get so mad about it.

    Okay, things that aren’t ‘what about meeeee’. Part of me loves that Jesus got mad at people who didn’t think they were sinners, when I think of them as self-righteous people who spent their days condemning others. When I think of them as misguided people trying their best to fulfil the roles they thought God had given them, I end up empathising with them.

    Which is when it helps to remember the kindness he showed to Nicodemus and Simon, the conversion of Paul, the comment about hens and chicks, and the interpretation of comments about their destruction as being prophecy about the destruction of the temple and not Jesus saying ‘I really want to kill you guys and also you’re going to hell’.

    I assume the truth about them would likely have been somewhere in the middle, although much like with Christians, there were bound to be bad apples who did stress the inferiority of sinners.

    I love the quote about God preferring our relationships with him to his rules, although I wish dearly that motivation would crop up in my own life – at the moment, it seems to inspire me to laziness, and it’s the commands to love one another that begin to make me attempt to make some kind of effort to live as I should.

    • D

      We are better off to call our sin, sin, because there is a cure for it.

      Grace allows to live somewhere between depression and egotism. We have nothing to be proud of and everything to be thankful for. We know what a real screw up we can be, but also know that God can use us in amazing ways.

      It seems to me you have a beautifully balanced viewpoint. I sense honesty and compassion in your words. I think you want to be better at loving people like Jesus, but realize you have a long way to go. Me too.

  3. “The beginning of love is to realize we don’t love well.” Knox Chamblin

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