Forgiveness, complete and total forgiveness of the sinner by God regardless of the heinousness of the sin, forgiveness dependent upon nothing other than a person’s desire to be forgiven, is a non-removable dimension of the Good News revealed by and in Jesus concerning the reality of God who is “Abba,” concerning the truth of “God who is love.” If this were not the case then the Good News would not be Good News, since all human beings sin and all are therefore in need of forgiveness.
But to reiterate for clarity’s sake what has been said in an earlier Fast Food Helping, evil and sin are not synonymous. Evil is what is contrary to the will of God as reveal by Jesus, the Word of God. Sin is freely choosing by an act of the will to do something one knows or believes is evil. If a person, through no fault of their own, does not know that the choice he or she is making in the moment is a choice of evil, he or she has not sinned. They have participated in evil and the consequences of participating in evil will follow, but they have not sinned. An example of this would be the doctor who, through no fault of his own, administers a mislabeled lethal drug to a patient believing it is another drug. The consequences of administering a lethal drug will follow, i.e., death, but the person has not sinned. But if the doctor did know it was a lethal drug, or had reason to suspect it was, the the choice to administer it would not only be evil, it would also be sinful.
Christians succumb to the temptation to sin, that is, to intentionally not follow the will of God as revealed by Jesus, to intentionally not love as Jesus loves, from a myriad of motivations. If a Christian chooses from one motivation or another to not follow Jesus’ Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies, when he or she knows that this is the will of God as revealed by Jesus in the Gospels, then he or she sins. God will forgive such a sin 7X70 times, if forgiveness is sought.
It is the implicit understanding of the Gospel that a Christian may at times give in to temptation and intentionally refuse to follow one or more of Jesus’ teachings. Perfection in the Gospel is not perfectionism. Perfectionism is executing a rule or standard without a flaw or failure. Perfection in the Gospel is unending fidelity to the struggle to follow Jesus and His Way of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies, as well as, to unending fidelity to struggle to follow His other teachings. Struggle implies the possibility of failures in execution. Fidelity implies not giving-up the struggle because of failure in execution, rooted in belief in the Good News of God’s infinite forgiveness.
An appropriate example of what is being communicated here is from St. Basil, the founder of monasticism in Eastern Christianity, a hundred years before St. Benedict founded Western monasticism. Basil was asked, “What is the difference between a good monk and a bad monk?” He responded, “A good monk falls and gets up, falls and gets up, falls and gets up, falls and get up, falls and gets up, falls and gets up, until the end of time if necessary. A bad monk falls and calls it good or refuses to get up and continue the struggle..”
It is a cunning ruse of Just Warist Church leaders and Just Warist Christians to befog the distinctions between evil and sin, between perfection in the Gospel and perfectionism in philosophy, and thereby be able to fluff-off Jesus’ teaching of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies as a perfectionist creed for a spiritual elite, and to justify their choice of violence. Jesus’ teaching of Nonviolent Love of all under all circumstance is no more a perfectionist creed than Jesus’ teaching of non-adulterous love, or merciful love defined by His words and deeds, or forgiveness 7X70 times is a perfectionist creed. Don’t drink the perfectionists “Kool-Aid” being offered as an excuse to disobey Jesus’ teachings of Nonviolent Love of friends and enemies.
-Emmanuel Charles McCarthy