From 1962’s Fear Love and Worship:
“One reason for the joy in heaven over a sinner’s repentance is the unique power which comes with forgiveness. The repentant sinner, having been forgiven and having been taken back like the Prodigal Son, learns a lesson of love that the righteous do not know. On his return the Prodigal knows the power of the father’s love much better than he did before he left. This curious and alarming spiritual fact, that a forgiven sinner has experienced a measure of God’s love he did not know before he sinned, has upset many people…From the very beginning this fact led some to ask St. Paul, ‘Then should we sin that grace may abound?’ Of course not, but the alarming quality of this part of the Gospel has led the principle of forgiveness to be denied and the consequent power lost… Christ’s burden is light and his yoke is easy only when we ourselves are carried by his forgiveness.
“A sergeant told a grim joke to his trainees during the Second World War, which shows the real flaw in the Pharisaic understanding of Christianity. a man stopped on a dirt road to help get another man’s car our of the ditch. The latter was beginning to harness two small furry kittens to the bumper of this huge car when he was asked, ‘Mister, you aren’t going to try to get those kittens to pull that car out of the ditch, are you?’ His reply was, ‘Why not? I’ve got a whip.’ The lash of the Law is used in similar spiritual situations. Without the principle of forgiveness our conscience acquires a quality of cruelty that makes the Gospel of Christ anything but the Good News.
“It is perfectly incredible how the unmistakably clear and simple fact of God’s forgiveness of sinners has been so frequently denied throughout the history of Christianity. There is a story of a clergyman who had an argument with a vestryman about whether a woman of bad reputation should be made welcome in the church. Finally the minister said,’Well, didn’t the Lord forgive the woman taken in adultery?’ ‘Yes,’ replied the old gentleman,’but I don’t think any more of him for having done it.’ …the resistance is always so great that every age needs to discover anew the experience and power of God’s free forgiveness which is continually available to all. We can generally assume, regardless of our tradition, that we have not been adequately ‘let in on’ this part of the Good News.”
Fitz speaks on Thursday evening at 7pm and Friday afternoon at 1:15pm at this week’s Mockingbird conference in NYC. To register, go here.