Robert Wheeler: In the discussion of this past weekend some issues were raised about unconditional love, forgiveness and sin. The question was whether, under my definition of unconditional love, there can be any meaning of forgiveness. It IS a problem of definition. A few years ago, my brother, Richard, referred me to a book titled Philosophy in the Flesh, by Lakoff and Johnson. It posited the problem, as the authors saw it, of philosophy, and I would also say theology, treating ideas as though they were objects like any other physical thing that we can manipulate. I see a number of religious ideas as subject to that problem. I have been asked what I have meant by certain statements. Indulge me to explain my meaning of my statements concerning compassion by starting with definitions.
Sin: “anything that separates us from the love of God” (thank you, Dr. Nida)
Compassion: “the ability to see, to be sensitive to, and to share the joy as well is suffering of another”
Forgiveness: “a gift we give ourselves to restore us to a relationship with another”
Accountability: “a just, dispassionate adjustment of accounts through rational, generally accepted practices ”
And finally, one of my favorites, Righteousness: “a dynamic of right relationships, and not a ‘thing’ to be possessed.”
From my view, Jesus, the “love of God,” and “the kingdom that is at hand,” have everything to do with right relationships; and meaningful relationships are compassionate ones.
Albert Schweitzer was once asked about his notion of “respect for life:” do you use antibiotics? “Yes I do, but I do not use them lightly.” Elsewhere he has been quoted, “By having a reverence for life, we enter into a spiritual relation with the world. By practicing reverence for life we become good, deep, and alive.” . . .
Forgetting has nothing to do with forgiveness. Forgiveness and accountability are two separate matters. That is the reason that we can “discipline” our children and still unconditionally love them (which does not have to be a negative action, and must not be destructive). After we have disciplined our own children, do we go about looking for other children to discipline? No. They are not our responsibility although it may be our responsibility to protect other helpless persons that we see harmed with no power to protect themselves. Even that has some limits of social responsibility. This is what I meant when I suggested that the only person who has the right to decide whether their sexual orientation or how they act upon it is sin or not, is good or bad, or is right or wrong is that person and the one with whom they are in relationship.