Sunday, June 15, 2014

From "The Christian Experience of Forgiveness" by H.R. Mackintosh

A quote from the chapter, “The Divine Reaction Against Sin” in The Christian Experience of Forgiveness

“…[S]hould we dream of describing as good or loving one whom we believe to be incapable of anger at wrong-doing? Just here is found one of the difficulties of which earnest but not very clear headed people are conscious when they are being urged to forgive an injury. They hesitate, because to pardon looks like confessing that their anger was reprehensible; whereas they know, without reasoning, that in the circumstances anger was not only permissible but obligatory. Lack of indignation at wickedness is a sign, not of a poor nature only, but of positive unlikeness to Jesus Christ…Unless we sophisticate ourselves, we all feel this. Intentional discourtesy, the calculated ruin of purity, an act of savagery to a child—he is not to be envied who can look on calmly when such things are done. For beings like us, doubtless, it is hard to be angry and not sin, but we must not turn this frailty into a proof that wrath is inconsistent with Holy Love.
     Occasionally the flank of our difficulty seems to be turned by the phrase that God is angry not with sinners but with their sin. And it would be pedantry to cavil at such an expression when used colloquially or in poetry:

           Thou judgest us: thy purity
           Doth all our lust condemn;
           The love that draws us nearer Thee
           Is hot with wrath to them.

     None the less, the phase when insisted on is a misleading catchword. There is no such thing as sin apart from a sinner, any more than pleasure could be real, in pure abstraction, irrespectively of a pleased consciousness. The one fact in the case is the sinful life to which God’s attitude invariably is personal. To be angry with a thing—and sin abstracted from sinner is no more –ranks as a moral absurdity. The man who spitefully kicks the stool over which he has tripped in the dark has for the moment become irrational. Anger, the anger of moral love, can only be directed upon moral beings. If therefore it is permissible to speak of God’s wrath, it is with sinners—with ourselves when we defy love—that His wrath has to do. (p 144-145)

The Christian Experience of Forgiveness. H.R. Mackintosh (1961, Glasgow, Fontana Books)

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