Friday, January 31, 2014


Eclectia1a by paynehollow
Eclectia1a, a photo by paynehollow on Flickr.

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them”

~Thomas Merton

(Happy Birthday to Saint Thomas of Kentucky)


Marshall Art said...

This does not sound reasonable. "What they are" compels whatever feelings we come to have of another. This does not necessarily have to reflect ourselves, but it does reflect, and always does, what is a worthy reason for liking or loving them at all. No friend of mine is exactly like me, nor do I insist they become so. But they all possess qualities that I regard as essential in people with whom I would befriend and love. If letting someone "be perfectly themselves", what it that someone is a complete scoundrel? How could love for such a person begin, and, assuming it could, how could I truly be loving by not seeking to influence a change in those negative qualities that exist within someone for whom I have any love or care?

Dan Trabue said...

Thank you for your opinion, for what it's worth.

Marshall Art said...

Any time, and I think it's worth a great deal. I love my sister, but I can't abide her drunkenness. Is Merton suggesting I tolerate it? What she is is a drunk for reasons not worth going into now. How many people actually try twisting others into clones of themselves?

Dan Trabue said...

Is Merton suggesting tolerating self-destructive behavior? I don't think so.

I think the point is much the same as we find in the Bible: God shows God's love for us in that while we were yet sinners, Jesus died for us.

In the "love chapter" of 1 Corinthians, it notes that now we see through a glass darkly, but then we will see clearly. Now we know in part, then we will know fully, as God knows fully.

I heard a conservative preacher make the case once that perhaps one reason that God loves us so completely - even in our sins and foibles - is that God knows us best of all. God accepts us as we are.

Jesus made it clear to the woman caught in the act of sin that he did not condemn her.

I think Merton is simply making a similar case to all this - that we are to simply love folk as they are, even in their shortcomings, not expecting or waiting for them to become "more like us" and THEN we can love them, because that sort of love is more of an unhealthy self-love rather than the sacrificial, as-you-are love and acceptance we find in God's example.

On the other hand, I think it is safe to say that, where we know a murderer, a pedophile, someone causing harm to others, that we accept the behavior, but the person, knowing that all sorts of pain and personal turmoil must be wrapped up even in those horrible behaviors.

And how do we know about the pain and suffering of personal sin? Because we experience it ourselves. And we love it when someone accepts us, forgives us, embraces us, chooses NOT to condemn us, even in our worst moments. We can recognize that sort of grace and find salvation in it.

Seems reasonable to me.

Marshall Art said...

I don't see how 13:12 applies here at all. We are not expected to have the ability to see into the hearts of others and I don't see as how the Merton quote has any basis in verse 12. Yet, while you look to 1 Corinthians, you choose to ignore Paul's teaching to "Expel the wicked man from among you." (-1 Cor 5:13, NIV)

"I heard a conservative preacher make the case once that perhaps one reason that God loves us so completely - even in our sins and foibles - is that God knows us best of all. God accepts us as we are."

You understanding of what constitutes conservatism leaves much to be desired, so your labeling this preacher as conservative has no value here. However, there are many who make a stronger case that though God might love us all, His concerns are mainly to His elect. Regardless, there is a difference between loving someone and accepting and/or tolerating their unlawful behaviors. God might love us despite or flaws, but that does not equate to welcoming absolutely everyone to Paradise as if ignoring transgressions. Clearly, Scripture teaches that not all will walk the narrow path and that the wicked will not inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Cor 6:9-10, NIV)

"Jesus made it clear to the woman caught in the act of sin that he did not condemn her."



1. to express an unfavorable or adverse judgment on; indicate strong disapproval of; censure.
2. to pronounce to be guilty; sentence to punishment: to condemn a murderer to life imprisonment.
3. to give grounds or reason for convicting or censuring: His acts condemn him.

It seems clear that the third definition explains Christ's meaning in His use of the word "condemn". He could not give ground for conviction since He was not a witness to the crime for which she was brought before Him (TO TRAP HIM), and since her accusers had departed from the scene, He had nothing by which a condemnation would be legitimate.

But by the first two definitions, particularly the first and the initial bit of #2, He did indeed condemn her by telling her "Go, and sin no more." Thus as a man, He could not condemn her legally, but as God, He most certainly did by recognizing the fact that she had sinned (one doesn't say "do not do this anymore" to one who never did it in the first place). We see by this fact that Jesus did not accept her sinful ways and expected her to repent of it. This would not align with appears to be Merton's lesson.

It is one thing to say, "Love the sinner, but not the sin", and quite another to act as if the sinning is inconsequential to whether or not we maintain an association. It is right and proper to have expectations on those with whom we associate. Frankly, we all do. You would yourself bristle more than a little bit should anyone use what you regard as "hateful" slang towards those of the homosexual persuasion and would indeed delete their comments. This is a virtual example of NOT accepting people as they are. Thus, you would not be consistent and be an example of what Merton preaches in his quote.

There is also a benefit to holding each other accountable for our actions, especially within the Church. This requires recognizing bad behaviors, especially chronic bad behaviors and more especially, chronic bad behaviors not recognized as such by the perpetrators. I do not see a Dan Trabue embracing anyone who continually refers to homosexuals as "fags", for example, and that's really a minor infraction. Nor do I think that a Dan Trabue would be out of line to reject such a person if he truly found such rhetoric to be the hateful and hurtful speech he claims it to be.

Just sayin'.

Dan Trabue said...

There is a difference between helping a person recognize the harm they may be inflicting on themselves or others by their behavior and condemning them.

Clearly, Jesus opts for the "I do not condemn you" approach.

Marshall Art said...

Did you actually read my last comment? You clearly, and perhaps intentionally, misinterpret what Jesus was doing by saying, "Neither do I condemn you."

Dan Trabue said...

You mean, "IN MY OPINION, I think..."?

Marshall Art said...

Oh, yeah. That's right. I forgot. If it contradicts your preferred understanding, it just another guy's opinion. Doesn't matter that a serious consideration of the passage doesn't support your position.

Dan Trabue said...

In. Your. Opinion.

But you've demonstrated that you have difficulty distinguishing fact from opinion, so that does not concern me much.

When Jesus has confirmed for you his meaning, be sure to forward that email to me.

Marshall Art said...

The passage you cite confirms itself if you choose to study it honestly, rather than use it as an excuse to allow your sinful friends to continue sinning with abandon. I've explained the passage and why your interpretation is an epic fail. You prefer delusion.