10 April 2022 (extra)
(This is one of those rare moments when I need to reply to questions, and the need demands a second post for today. It is in response to a discussion on Jack's blog. I expand on my comment there.)
Forgiveness. This is not a new doctrine by any means. It goes all the way back to the Garden of Eden and the foundation of divine revelation to mankind. The problem is getting western believers to shift their thinking about it over to the Ancient Hebrew way of thinking about it, because that's the way God revealed it. Furthermore, it's impossible to be clinical about this. It's all spiritual truth, and can be addressed only in parable, symbolism, figures of speech and metaphor.
Creation is inherently feudal. Furthermore, it's an eastern feudalism, not the one we learned from European medieval history. The latter is an ugly pagan perversion of the real thing. Hebrew feudalism is radically different. There is God, and there is His Creation. The only thing that really matters ever is our personal connection to Him. In His realm, everything is personal. You are on good terms with Him, or you aren't. He decides.
But He never fails to notify you. The issue, then, is whether you are paying attention to the notices. By His own design, those notices are written in your convictions. You'll find them only when you move your conscious awareness from your head into your heart. The Bible reveals that your heart is the seat of faith, the place where God speaks. He does not speak directly to fallen human intellect. The real task is to discern conviction versus long standing sentiment and experience, because our intellect cannot distinguish. That may take the rest of your life, as the flesh pretends there is no spirit and no Spirit Realm, and your fleshly intellect pretends it is its own god.
Still, this is the basic assumption of how you should live in this world. You have two natures. One is the fallen beastly nature we call "the flesh". The other is your redeemed soul, the eternal part of you trapped inside that flesh. Flesh cannot be redeemed; it can only be killed. That's one metaphor; another is that we corral the flesh and keep it under control. You must break it, saddle and bridle it, and make your way through life trying to keep it under control. It is not really you, but He holds you responsible for it as His vassal.
God alone decides what is right and just, and what is evil. We are warned that this cannot be reduced to objective facts. It is inherently personal in nature; God alone decides what is sin for you in any given context. When you screw up, God alone can tell you so in your convictions. Over and over again, it's personal. If your convictions don't warn you, then you cannot repent. The burden is upon you to condition your awareness by reading the Bible so that you can see examples of what God has said is good and evil. That way you become sensitive to your convictions.
So the whole sum of all your considerations will always be what pleases your Creator. You always want to know what makes Him pleased with you. Like any good child, you constantly check to see if He approves or not -- dynamic and moment by moment. You should be warned that your intellect cannot adequately formulate rules for this. However, a consistent response from the Father makes it easier for us to lay the foundation of of holy habits so we can keep peace with Him. It's organic, not objective.
People emulate this in their flesh. It's instinctive; fallen people outside the Covenant will seek to be their own gods. Naturally, they take offense at things that don't go as they expect. We all do it; that's how flesh operates. However, we who walk in faith have a reference point in our convictions. The rest of the world does not; it tries to gin up all kinds of reference points ranging between entirely personal to pseudo-objective rules.
When others offend you, your first instinct should be to check it against your convictions. Turn it over to God, the ultimate authority of what is good or evil. His feelings are the only ones that matter. You are supposed to discern whether it's just your flesh whining again, or whether someone has offended your Father. If the former, you'll get over it; discipline your flesh. If the latter, you may be compelled to act. Your convictions will tell you what is required. It may take some time, but you'll know if you want to know.
The real issue is not the systems made by man, but what pleases your Father. It may be convenient to play along with those human systems, but our mission of shining His glory and drawing attention to Him may require making use of the conflict between His authority and the human pretense of authority. However, you can live with making peace with Him even when it puts you at odds with whole human race. That is, while fallen humanity may take your life, you shouldn't care too much about that, as long as you have peace with God. It just means He has called you Home.
In the meantime, there are any number of ways to make provisional peace with humans on their own terms. Don't buy into any real fear of them; just act according to your convictions. However, you don't need their forgiveness, because no one has any real power to forgive except the Father. And without His authority, you cannot truly forgive anyone else.
Can you forgive yourself? Not in any literal sense, but the words are meaningful if you understand them as discernment of what is really yourself and what is just your fleshly nature doing what it naturally does. Once you start down that path of discerning your two natures, you can learn to deal with any confused internal resentments. The Lord will reorder the mess you've made.
No flesh can see God. In His Presence, flesh evaporates. If you go into God's divine Presence, you tie up your fleshly nature outside. When you do enter His Presence, protocol demands one of the first things you do is apologize for your failure to restrain that rowdy beast of flesh that you ride through this life. It's taken for granted that our control will ever be imperfect. It will trouble you and Him to no end as long as it lives. You always need His forgiveness, so you always ask, because that's how He wants you to do things. It keeps you humble; never take yourself too seriously.
And that's the key to living at peace with God and the rest of Creation. The world has no valid claim on you, but as long as you don't take yourself too seriously, you won't try to lodge unjust claims against them. On occasion He will authorize you to act on His behalf among fallen humans; only by your convictions can you know what that action should be. You never forget how the world views all of this, but you seek the favor of God first.
Thus, it becomes a whole area of discussion and faith as to how we handle the choices others make for us in this world. Our options are limited by human systems, and churches are human systems, too. Your convictions don't have to agree with church authorities, but if church is part of your mission, it requires coming to terms with the leadership. Your convictions will tell you when it's no longer possible. Your mission from God comes first.
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