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April 24, 2021


Robert Bridge

In Psalm 1 the stress on righteousness and avoidance of sinners and the wicked leads to a dilemma for me. I take it that the unconditional love Jesus had for all humanity meant that he did not discriminate, but actively sought the company of "sinners". Furthermore he was in conflict with the Pharisees who made the love of God conditional on righteousness.

Jim Gordon

Hello Robert - I don't read Psalm 1 as an avoidance of sinners, but a refusal to do as sinners do, or think as sinners think. The righteous adheres to the value of Torah in the Psalms, not the standards and values of those who despise God, scoff holiness, or make a habit of mocking what is good, true or just. Jesus' presence with sinners was both an expression of love for them as people and a transformative encounter aimed at changing precisely those patterns of behaviour. I don't see a contradiction, but rather a contrast of two ways of life, and the clear indication of which is the way of holiness, and the way of discipleship. To actively seek the company of sinners as Jesus certainly did, was an act of love aiming at repentance, that is a changing precisely of lifestyle, values and primary loyalties.

Robert Bridge

Thanks Jim, I agree wholeheartedly with what you say. Where we may differ is in the matter of conditionality. Do we assume that Jesus offered forgiveness, love and hope IF the sinner repented or, more radically, did he assure the sinner that his or her sins where forgiven irrespective of whether they repented or not. I would assume that Jesus would have indicated that a change of lifestyle would be a good idea, but not as a condition that must be fulfilled to be acceptable to God. I have struggled with this dilemma but tend to the idea of unconditional love of God for all people freely given, particularly after reflecting on the words of Paul in 1 Corinthians. For me there is a clear distinction to be made between motivation and practice - I know I should love and forgive all people I meet (Love my neighbour), but in practice I want murderers, paedophiles etc locked up.

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Off the Beaten Track

Working through this Biblical Commentary

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