“Principles are what people have instead of God.
To be a Christian means among other things to be willing if necessary to sacrifice even your highest principles for God’s or your neighbor’s sake the way a Christian pacifist must be willing to pick up a baseball bat if there’s no other way to stop a man from savagely beating a child.
Jesus didn’t forgive his executioners on principle but because in some unimaginable way he was able to love them.
‘Principle’ is an even duller word than ‘Religion’.”
― Frederick Buechner, Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC
This quote came across my Facebook news feed this week and I had to re read it a few times as the message sank deeper into my heart. At first pass I thought…What?! Aren’t principles good? Shouldn’t we stand for right and wrong? Shouldn’t we have those lines that we wont cross?
The second read I thought well, I guess principles are our own construction of right and wrong. They can become rigid. A list of shoulds and should nots to adhere to. Fundamental behavior rules that we accept as true as we construct our own moral framework. We replace God with our own ideas of how to act. And when something falls outside that framework we judge it and cast it off without looking deeper into the heart.
The third time through I stopped at “Jesus didn’t forgive his executioners on principle but because in some unimaginable way he was able to love them”. He didn’t forgive these people who had beaten, humiliated, and executed him because he SHOULD. Because a moral code told him to. He forgives them because he honestly LOVES them. He can see in their hearts. He can see beyond the behavior to the pain and the wounds. He can see their need for a savior. And even though they are taking his life he responds with compassion and forgiveness.
WOW…that is some kind of love and it’s there for all of us.
This is the point where I’m like Yea! Thank you for loving me that much! Thank you for your grace and compassion and forgiveness!!
And then there is a voice inside me that goes “Because I love you…go love others with the same sacrificial love”
Eeeerrrkkk (squealing brakes 🙂 ) It’s one thing for me to receive that love but to offer it to others? That costs something. That costs A LOT. That costs EVERYTHING. However, if it’s been freely given to me…shouldn’t I freely give it? Yes. But let’s not pretend it’s easy. I have been in a very difficult healing and forgiveness process and I will admit to days where closing my heart and giving in to anger/bitterness seemed like the easiest way forward. My heart was hard. My pride was hurt. My sense of justice was screaming. My principles shattered. I knew deep in my soul that love and forgiveness were the only way to bring freedom into my life but I didn’t see how it was humanly possible. And honestly it wasn’t humanly possible but I had hope it was divinely possible.
So, this was my prayer “God, I’m hurt and angry. I confess to an extremely hard heart and not much hope for true forgiveness. I know you ask me to love this world like you do. To offer compassion and forgiveness to hurting people. There is nothing in me that wants to…BUT there is a small crack in my heart for you to work. I need you to honestly do this because I can’t and I’m not going to fake it.”
Deep in my soul I felt something like this “Thank you for keeping a crack open…I’m not asking you to fake it…I can and will do this. Trust me.”
It doesn’t happen immediately. In fact it is a slow, agonizing process but that crack is widening. Much like a rose going from a tight closed bud to a flower in full bloom. Every day brings almost undetectable changes but add them up and transformation is more obvious. The hardness is softening. The ice is melting. A miracle is happening. Authentic love and forgiveness are replacing anger and self righteousness. The impossible now feels more possible. And all I can say is Praise the Lord…I’m not faking it!!