The Personalist Project

Some things that feel like love, aren't. Like seduction or eroticism or flattery.

On the other hand, if it doesn't look like love or feel like love—if it's cold and condemning and feels like contempt —it isn't love.

Love actually does feel like love.
Sometimes love has to inflict pain. But it hates having to do that. It's sorry to give pain. It hastens to soothe and comfort afterwards.

We shouldn't delude ourselves into imagining that "hating the sin" equals "loving the sinner."

Condemning sin isn't good or admirable if it coincides with contempt for concrete persons.

Yesterday's Gospel passage was the one of the woman washing Jesus' feet with her tears, while the Pharisees objected to being in the presence of a public sinner. Our priest at Mass drew out one line to emphasize in his homily: Jesus saying to the Pharisees, "Do you see this woman?"

We have a tendency to see the sin, while we overlook the person. God sees the person and loves the person, despite the sin.

So, the "righteous ones"—the publicly religious ones, who thought that decent people like them should avoid association with sinners—go down in history as the bad guys, while the beauty and greatness of that woman's act of contrition and oblation is still being extolled the world over more than two millennia later.

Love is kind; love is gentle; love builds up. It consoles. It's never mean or rude or obnoxious or sneering or self-righteous and condemnatory. It's always focused on the concrete reality of the individual before us.

Right after I heard that homily, I came upon this von Hildebrand quote in my facebook feed:

Love is characterized by a commitment to the other person, by an affirmation of the other in his existence, by a unique kind of solidarity with him.

I don't think we realize this enough.

UPDATE: Friend Pete alerted me to this great Patheos piece by "The Anchoress" that reinforces the point:

Proselytizing doesn’t work because confronting people as walking categories of sin quickly communicates that one is only seeing people as units of fault and failure. It says that their inherent, God-begotten worth and love-ableness is a peripheral thing, only recognized and honored once all the sinning has stopped, contrition has been expressed and appropriate penances have been completed.

Proselytizing tries to make people jump into holiness in order to get Jesus, which entirely contradicts Jesus’ own example.

That's it exactly.

Comments (3)

Ian Skemp

#1, Sep 25, 2014 12:19pm

Interesting bit on proselytizing. 

I have a gut feeling many Christians feel guilty for not proselytizing.  I’ve no proof of this aside from my own conflict, but if I’ve felt it, I’m sure others have, too.

After spending my entire K-12 education in small Christian schools, I began my college education at the University of Minnesota. Big ol’ state school. Before then, I spoke candidly in class discussions about matters of faith and morality. I had some major disagreements with some of my classmates in high school, but we all came from Christian families. Thus, suggesting that things like premarital sex were sinful wasn’t proselytizing, just discussing and debating amongst my peers- the people I would eat lunch with.

Ian Skemp

#2, Sep 25, 2014 12:19pm

Once I got to the UMN, I stopped talking candidly about sin. Mind you, I was still a practicing Catholic who believed in sin; I just didn’t bring it up that often around my classmates. At one point, I started to wonder if I was not living up to my faith. Shouldn’t I be an open witness? Was I hiding my beliefs? Wouldn’t a good Christian take every opportunity to drop a “truth bomb” on the world? I saw some people carrying a cross down frat row one night, calling the revelers out on their sin. I figured I wasn’t strong enough in my faith to be such a bold witness.

I often wonder how many people leave the faith because they follow the following logic.

1)      Those people proselytizing on the street/Twitter/Facebook are real Christians because they have the conviction to preach the truth.

2)      I don’t have the conviction/courage to do that.

3)      I must not really believe this.

Katie van Schaijik

#3, Sep 25, 2014 12:41pm

Ian, I've had very similar thoughts. But now I think differently, especially as I try to pay attention to the Pope.

I now think that generally speaking we do better just to live our faith faithfully, and stay open to opportunities to share it with others one-on-one. I now think that "street preaching" or "truth bombing" often has the effect of short-circuiting authentic evangelization.

There are exceptions of course. If anyone feels called to street preaching, I hope he does it! 

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