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Letter Or Spirit - Words Of Life


skyseeker
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"The letter kills, but the spirit gives life." St. Paul

 

I think the importance of this verse cannot be overstated for everyone who reads the bible and wants to have a good, working notion for who God is and how life in Him is possible.

 

The letter really means a fixed spirit. The letter says this, and we believe it, and at that time we kill. But the spirit is not the letter - he exists apart from the text. We do not only learn from the bible, but also from the spirit, and our bible reading must be spirit-informed.

 

That is how in most versions of a humane and grace-oriented christianity, we leave aside those portions of the text which are too obviously negative. We don't agree with stoning adulterers or outlawing homosexuality or leading a war in God's name. I believe this is all spirit-informed. And the same spirit takes texts from the bible that were originally set in a violent context, and uses it for peaceful purposes. The verse that said that swords would be smithed into plowshares were originally read as a reference to a peaceful messianic kingdom - but in an ancient understanding, that is why the text mentioned olive trees. If we were entirely letter-believing, we would read all of this like the Jehovah's Witnesses. Technology becomes outlawed and we all need a tree in our backyard again. If we are spirit-believing we can escape the fixed letter meaning and break it up with the needs of the time and see a metaphor of olive trees for wisdom. Which means that in our day to make peace requires the need to let anyone sit in his own wisdom. That we do not undertake wisdom battles anymore - Solomon against Rumi, Augustine against Origen, but that we seek a spiritual compromise.

 

The letter alone is not able to give that. The letter is fixed - not just the bible letter, but also other books, my own writings here. But as christians we have access to other words than this, the words of life. Which are about Jesus' forgiveness and healing for all who believe, and for anyone else because we are all God's offspring and God works from a hidden space and is active on His own.

 

A christian has in fact the unique advantage of being able to forgive. We can go on a mission, to convert people to our faith, but if they don't want it or if they cannot listen to us, we can just forgive. And when we forgive, according to Jesus we are forgiven as well.

 

The words of life that have both the concreteness of the letter and life-giving ability of the spirit, are always words of forgiveness. The old letter had forgiveness tied to a legal concept of righteousness, threat of punishment, demand of repentance. But Jesus took that out of the way with the Cross. Now we can see forgiveness, and also the notion of God's grace that is tied to it, as a persistent love even when being faced with evil. At this point we must cling to the spirit, because He works patience, and not escape to letters like the mosaic ones that would eradicate evil along with the still precious human beings who did it. Instead we follow Jesus by following the spirit, under the influence of the sanctifying Holy Spirit, and that means we survive the inabilities and problems of the fixed letter, and turn to the words of life, and apply them to ourselves. When we forgive others, we can also forgive ourselves. When we forgive ourselves, we can turn to the eternal life that we see described in the Gospels as "do not steal, do not murder, do not lie, do not commit adultery, honor your parents, and if you want to be perfect, follow me (Jesus)". And in that we are safe, because even just these few commandments describe a life of great spiritual quality. And almost everyone of us except those which are mad in evil, would enjoy it if we give them something, if we add ot their life, if we tell them the truth, if we praise them for their love, if we remind them to their parents, and if we follow Jesus in their stead.

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Hi skyseeker,

 

My thoughts on your verse choice.....

 

 

To me, i find from the writings that "the letter" refers to the letter of the law. From my readings i find that even Jesus himself did not live by the letter of the law. ( He worked on the Sabbath among other things) For me , trying to live by a bunch of laws is destined for a life of death because human nature itself is contrary to written laws. (When late or in a hurry, for convenience, we violate the speed limit is just one of many examples)

 

If we hold in our heart to the law as just and perfect, when we violate it, it seems to me that guilt and condemnation arises whether consciously or unconsciously and we lose the confidence necessary to approach the Divine that is within all. In essence condemnation eventually overtakes us and inhibits the life that is in Christ (as to be anointed or being smeared together with God)

 

Now to me, the spirit of the law says that "ALL things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient". All things are lawful but i must be careful not to be brought under the power of any act. In this space of spirit (Christ, an anointing) , there is life , liberty and total forgiveness of others and oneself. This is living not by the letters of a book or any book of text but rather by the anointing which we realize has always been with us and by which we experience life and are taught and manifest the gifts of the spirit being love, joy, peace, patience, etc. Against such an anointing their is no law.

 

Just one view to consider,

joseph

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We can go on a mission, to convert people to our faith, but if they don't want it or if they cannot listen to us, we can just forgive. And when we forgive, according to Jesus we are forgiven as well.

------------------------

 

Sky seeker,

 

What is there to forgive? The evangelist has not been harmed. So arrogant to my mind.

 

Irenias (sp?) Would be alarmed that just anyone could decide what to ignore or keep. He thought only bishops should do it. What is the mechanism for correcting 'incorrect readings?

 

Dutch

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Hi again Glint,

 

I see forgiveness as receiving something from God that would recover the damage that was done by sin. So if someone sins against me, I must give him something from me so that the damage is returned as a blessing, ie a kind word, prayers, that I keep keeping the law of love, food and drink or a gift, and so on. If someone rejects Jesus, they cannot live in full benefit of His forgiveness, because God's forgiveness entails God giving Himself as we see in Christ's way. That is why we must forgive the unbelief or rejection - and this is not a proud stance but a consciousness of the need of God and returning the damage as a blessing. That is like taking a file and filing off the tip of a sting so it can't hurt anyone anymore. The goal for a Christ-followers is to spread belief in Christ, and a Christ-inspired love between humans. Forgiveness is not necessary because of punishment, it is necessary because it is supposed to overwhelm sin and its residues of mistrust, hatred, anger, disappointment, hurt, guilt, fear and worry.

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Well of course your point is meant, but forgiving something might in some cases be the same as not taking offense. But I do think there's a problem when some people don't accept Christ. I don't see this infringing on someone's salvation from hell or being included in God's love - but precisely the love of God is reason why God wants us to believe in Him. And I think one reason why unbelief doesn't matter so much is because in the end it's a sin like any other and would be forgiven. Still there should be this forgiveness, God's forgiveness, because spiritually it means that God makes good by Himself what we do wrong, and that should include getting the gift of faith so you actually know all this. We do need salvation, not because of some legal urgency most of the time but because otherwise we're lost here and don't quite live in the truth - which is a problem for our authencity as humans who have the Maker of All as their father.

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On forgiveness....

 

It seems to me that the spirit of forgiveness is needed not that there is really something to forgive in the other but rather that the written and unwritten laws many of us carry in our hearts (conscience) require such to be able to forgive ourselves when we violate the laws we have made for ourselves and others. In my view , it is best to walk in the spirit of unconditional forgiveness even when no offence has been committed.to require such. This gives us the confidence we need to 'in a sense' to approach God. (Not that there is really anywhere one needs to go to make that approach)

 

Joseph

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but forgiving something might in some cases be the same as not taking offense.

For me to take offense because you did not accept the gold bar I was offering, in my opinion, is arrogant. I am assuming that I know what is good for you. That I know better than you what you need. And that there is only one possibility. In a religiously pluralistic world this in an exclusivist viewpoint which says the my way is the only correct way; there are no other ways to God. Personally I think there are many paths and I am not sure they all end up at the same place.

 

Are you a Universalist? Will all be (eventually) be drawn up into Christ?

 

But I do think there's a problem when some people don't accept Christ.

I am interested in what you think the "problem" is. Do they, you or God have the problem? If we are fully dependent on "grace" and Christ will gather all up in the end what is the problem?

 

We can decide not to take offense but forgiveness is harder, I think. It requires relationship and repentance. We can refuse to be consumed with a need for "justice" - a code word for revenge - and not be burdened with the death of a friend at the hands of a mass killer but I don't think we can forgive the killer without being in relationship with him.

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2202316/Chris-Donovan-trust-We-hugged-thugs-kicked-son-death--job.html#axzz2KGiCiZv4

 

Dutch

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Hey Dutch,

 

there is the jewish sense of forgiveness, and the christian sense, and they're different. The jewish system forgives sin, christians forgive everything. Forgiveness is not the answer to a crime, it is an attitude of being overflowing and repairing things for others through prayer and refraining from any condemnation. I see grace as an eternally persistent love, despite everything that happens. That is in God and so it should be in us. If you see this forgiveness through a jewish thinking, you are right, I have nothing to forgive, I would be arrogant. But in the christian thinking I have to forgive always, even things which are no offenses. Forgiveness is just a part of God's love that goes on forever. It is a passion, and it looks ridiculous, but it stays good. It's like going out on the street, entering a house, ringing a bell and giving someone a bowl of strawberries. The forgiveness part of this is that it would make good someone's suffering or sin. Forgiveness is "for giving". We give so much that any evil or suffering or any absence of goodness, becomes overwhelmed. The devil gets drowned in a lake of fire.

 

Thanks,

 

Daniel

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Daniel,

 

I understand "being a blessing" but for me that use of "forgiveness" does not work. I can't get away from the implication of unequal power or value between the one forgiving and the one forgiven when there is no harm to forgive. I can't help think that it is related to the idea that creation has acted in such a way that needs God's forgiveness.

 

I do see that a church or pastor might use the word that way for a sermon or study but I am not comfortable with it at all.

 

Dutch

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Dutch,

 

i think forgiveness is a state of being, a state of acceptance of other and self. It seems to me that the recorded message of Jesus was that you are forgiven as you forgive.... measured as you measure,,,, judged as you judge. The point being that in essence when you forgive another you are in essence actually forgiving yourself because it is you that placed any perceived need for forgiveness by your own judgments, measures and self made laws. To ignore forgiveness, in my view, relates to the metaphor of eating from the tree of good and evil which leads to death. I do not see Jesus;s message of forgiveness as an implication of unequal power. Forgiveness to me is associated with humbleness rather than arrogance.

 

It seems to me that forgiveness is primarily for the benefit and because of the need of the forgiver who must do so , so that he/she can forgive them-self. God (the uncreated) has in my view, no need for forgiveness.. I agree with you that in reality there is nothing to forgive where there is no harm and would add no need even if harm were done.. However, perhaps to many who are lost in the thinking mind that continues to measure and make conditioned judgments of others, an invisible veil/ barrier is created that separates them in mind from the Divine. Forgiveness is then the key to open communications, so to speak, with the Divine and to the freedom and liberty of Life that is in Christ.

 

Just some thoughts to consider,

Joseph

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Joseph,

 

I appreciate your signature, "The only separation between you and me can only be in your mind." And the following snippet is consistent

 

The point being that in essence when you forgive another you are in essence actually forgiving yourself because it is you that placed any perceived need for forgiveness by your own judgments, measures and self made laws.

but I don't think "forgive" should be collapsed into an internal process only. My therapist often asks "What do you gain by making this judgment?" (He has the opportunity to ask that often. :)) In the situation where I make judgments I think your observation is a good one. I need to stop and notice the separation judgment creates between me and you. Certainly releasing my judgments closes the distance. I don't think forgiveness is about judgments we make of others.

 

And I ask that we don't deflate "forgive" of its meaning. Forgiveness is something that happens in a relationship. To say that I forgive someone who has refused my gift or that I forgive the shooter at Sandy Hook, in my mind is arrogant. I have been harmed by neither event. In these two cases it is all in my mind.

 

However, perhaps to many who are lost in the thinking mind that continues to measure and make conditioned judgments of others, an invisible veil/ barrier is created that separates them in mind from the Divine.

 

Daniel,

 

you make an interesting distinction between Hebrew forgiveness and Christian forgiveness. I don't get it. And "Christians forgive everything" makes no sense to me except in the prejudicial way I mentioned before. That we Christians, and any other part of creation, can "be a blessing" I understand.

 

4 And when they could not get near him because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and when they had made an opening, they let down the bed on which the paralytic lay. 5 And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.”

 

In this passage from Mark 1 I see both yours and Joseph ideas. Jesus (as Christians might model) observes that sins are forgiven when the human/divine barrier is broken. That it is the breaking in of that roof that makes the sins forgiven. Jesus may even facilitate this. His audience understood that the sins were against God, they broke God's rules and God's heart. and there must be some transaction across the divide to restore the relationship, Who acts to achieve this forgiveness? Not God and not Jesus. When the roof is broken open and a man is at his feet, Jesus observes - he takes no action - Jesus observes, "Oh, I see that your sins are forgiven." At some point in the future we may hear or see a story about the Sandy Hook, and observe, in an OT frame of mind, "Their sins are forgiven." Something has transpired that has led them to healing and wholeness. In Joseph's view I guess the veil between human and divine has been torn.

 

Even yet, as flat as we might make the meaning of forgiveness there is still the concept that something is wrong, less than it could be, or has missed the mark. If nothing is wrong what can be forgiven. Joseph says the wrong is the veil between human and divine created by our thinking and judging. And that is self-reflexive - the 'sinner' and the 'sinned against' are the same. When we recognize that, the roof caves and light streams in.

 

 

Dutch

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Hey Dutch,

 

that's great input you give me here with the quote. You have a very interesting way of thinking.

 

My approach was rather etymological. "Forgiving", at least in the german translation of it, seems to say that when there is a wrong done to me, I give so much to do the wrongdoer that the wrong is covered and overwhelmed. The wrongdoer would then apologize. I give him something that does away with the sin. That is what I perceive in Christ, there was sin and He forgives it by giving Himself into even a crucifixion. Like, God is in Heaven, sees that we're in a rut and exalting ourselves beyond love, and He says I can do the giving too, I can do something that you will marvel at. And goes to the cross, for us, and goes to sheol, the afterlife, and brings with him all who are there, and rises from the dead, for us again. It's like a big kiss, a big hug from God.

 

The distinction between christian and jewish forgiveness would be that the jewish forgiveness was tied to a legal concept, because the jewish law was involved. But in Christ the law was fulfilled and put on the cross too. So now forgiveness is not a legal requirement, it is a life of giving, at least in Jesus, and we emulate that in a smaller way. We always forgive anything, like I described it above. Or at least should do so. And so many conflicts that would arise about sin normally (eye for an eye, until everyone is blind), is doused.

 

If you would make clear your theology with the roof and the bed and the paralytic to someone who didn't hear about it, and he could relate to it, it would mean forgiveness to him. He would feel that God gives him insight and liberation and new life, ie God gives this man so much that his suffering and the failures of his life are overcome and don't matter anymore, and maybe Jesus will even throw in a healing.

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Dutch,

 

I liked the way you put your entire last post together . My only further comment is. i, in a sense, see nothing "wrong" or "less than it could be" at the moment.

 

It appears to me that for each deed that is sowed there is a reaping regardless of forgiveness so that Creation itself is not mocked in its apparent evolution. I see justice as self regulating and built into the created , howbeit, it is often unseen with the naked eyes. Forgiveness to me is nothing more than unconditional acceptance of creation at this moment "as it is". Change is manifested and comes out of that state of acceptance where things are seen more clearly.

 

Thanks for your last post. it was meaningful to me.

Joseph.

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Joseph, Daniel,

 

Thank you for the kind words.

 

I liked the German understanding of the word forgiveness. "Christians forgive everything" still concerns me. Too often it is more like "CHRISTIANS forgive everything" and others don't. I am sure that is not what you meant, skyseeker.

 

Dutch

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