FROM THE BOUNDARY: Sin pondering – Part four

Jesus tells us that it’s what comes out of a man, from the heart, which defiles him. The seat of love is stunted by our foolishness. Yet, he tells us, “Whoever comes to me I will never cast out” (John 6:37). The Sufi poet, Rumi: “Ours is not a caravan of despair. Come, even if you’ve broken your vows a thousand times. Come.” The Muslim/Hindu poet, Kabir: “The lock of error shuts the gate, open it with the key of love. Thus, by opening the door, thou shalt wake the Beloved.”

The sense is surely that the Divine is neutral to our sinfulness. Our nonsenses hold us back – the scales won’t, can’t, fall from our eyes – but the Divine remains there for us if ever we can reveal ‘Him’ for ourselves. It’s not easy. Kabir again: I relinquish passion, but anger remains; I renounce anger, but greed remains; I vanquish greed, but pride and vainglory remain; I cast away illusion, but my mind still clings to book texts. “The truth-seeker’s battle goes on day and night, as long as life lasts it never ceases” for “the true path is rarely found.” The focus is on us. It’s our battle. The Divine simply enjoins ‘Come’.

Do we sincerely take up the offer – with open and loving hearts, intent on listening to our deepest selves, and keeping on?

Do we? I sometimes wonder when, in what we Anglicans call the ‘Act of Penitence’, we affirm “we have sinned against you and one another, in thought, word and deed, and in what we have left undone” we’re doing little more than mouthing words – and that includes me. Have we really understood our lives as they’ve truly been? Are we really just saying ‘Well, whatever I’ve done or not – sorry’? How far would that take us, bereft of understanding and discernment? Oh yes, some of us are killers when it comes to judging people, and how righteous it makes us feel spouting Biblical texts to rubbish others.

But ourselves? That’s a different story. Maybe that’s why our world has changed so little down the Christian centuries. All we’ve had are different forms of sameness.

Yet for some the ravages of sin are very real. They may destroy our peace, for sin is separation – from our true selves, from the Life within every life. Sure, we may just have made a mistake but the results may still be catastrophic for us. The result of our error is dis-ease. To use the old language, it’s like firing an arrow and missing the mark. The arrow lands in the forest of confusion and there’s no peace any more. For the sensitive soul even our mistake may result in a terrible sense of shame and guilt. But at least we know what we’ve done and can hand it to the Divine. ‘Come’. Always ‘Come’. Life without peace is death in life. But it may yet be turned to glory. In the Divine scheme we were given our freedom, and so error is bound to come our way. Yet, as Mother Julian (of Norwich) tells us, all will be well. We may need to suffer the pain of sin. But it’s a cleansing pain

which, with help, becomes creative, even life giving. Jesus calls that help the ‘Comforter’, and that’s exactly it – from deep within.

We begin to understand how frail we are on our own, how wondrous is the saving grace of the Life within all life, a Life which has gathered us securely in our suffering, as a mother does her child. That Life doesn’t condemn or reject us. No, for in our transformation we’re decorated with battle honours, as the Prodigal come home and, for Jesus, all the Gospel sinners. Life whispers to us: ‘My love, you have come to me. In all your pain I’ve been with you. Now you know my love and we are joined with joy.’ And that is ever our goal and our destiny.

Go safely, then – until the next time.

A paradox, from the boundary: “And God said ‘love your enemy’, and I obeyed him and loved myself” (Khalil Gibran)

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