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    • #2096
      Forgiving Victim

      4.6 A little family upheaval

      This session focuses on the new understanding of sin and forgiveness made possible by what Jesus did, and is doing, in our midst.

      Receiving a new story

      Share ways in which you have noticed the content, questions or insights from the previous Module showing up in your lives.

      Just draw! 

      The phrase “You’re not the boss of me!” captures adult feelings as well childish rebellion. Share your thoughts on these questions:

      • What is important about claiming to be the “boss” of yourself?
      • What are some of the pitfalls of clinging to the idea that who you are begins and ends with you?
      • Why might it be a relief to discover that who you are doesn’t start with you at all?

      Food for thought

      • How would you explain what James means by our “secondariness”?
        • He says that there is nothing “second rate” about our secondariness. What does your secondariness make possible for you?
      • What seemed important to you about the experience of the bureaucratic ruler on the small planet?
        • How does this image shift, if at all, your understanding of yourself as the protagonist of your own life story?
          • Have you ever felt the draw of a much stronger presence altering your reality? Can you describe the experience?
      • An interesting reversal happens when we begin to discover that sin is known in its being forgiven.
        • How does that shift the typical sequence of sin and forgiveness?
        • Can you describe the process by which being forgiven precedes the awareness of sin?

      Wrap-up question

      What does sin look like through the eyes of the Forgiving Victim? What attitude does the Forgiving Victim have towards your sin?

    • #46927
      Rich Paxson

      I wrote about rules, and humor, and faithful iteration in my last post. My entire career as an IRS Revenue Agent was about rules, about rule interpretation, and about who gets the final word on a revenue ruling’s meaning in particular circumstances.

      When I think of ‘rules of devotion’ for personal faith, I know they are different from Church rules. Faithfully reading the Daily Office, for example, is a personal commitment to accept the gift of faith. Rubrics, or rules, in the Book of Common Prayer, on the other hand, reflect the practice of public worship in a Church service, which is about as far as many people get on their faith journeys. I don’t mean those of us here at Forgiving Victim, but individuals who come to Jesus only periodically, or by chance. Remember the Samarian woman who long-ago met Jesus by chance at the well where He not only reiterated her life history but also offered her “living water … gushing up to eternal life.” God’s gift of faith is not exclusively for those who follow the rules.

      Faithful iteration is about chance and hope and standards and devotion. Like the Samaritan woman, we come again and again to the well. Our hope is that one day God will remove our blindness so we can see our way toward deeper faith and understanding. I hear Paul writing about faithful iteration in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13:12 – “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I [and the Samaritan woman at the well] have been fully known.”

      • #46953

        Keeping rules and being moral are not the aim of Christian life Rich, they are the means that allow us to find a deeper spirituality. Something akin to technique on an instruments for a musician. Technique is not the aim of the artist’s studies, but the means to freedom to interpret the music. As James tells us: “In our case, being forgiven is prior to being created. This is what the ancient doctrine of “Original Sin” teaches, insisting on that very delicate “backward glance from the cusp of the new creation” as vital to any understanding of who we are finding ourselves to be and how we should behave.
        There was a notion of sin, and righteousness and judgment that was proper to our world, in which the prosecuting counsel, the accuser, always tended to win. This understanding is being completely reshaped because it turns out that the victim of this world’s judgment, sense of righteousness, and definition of sin was God himself. Sin is known in its being forgiven”.

    • #46929
      Rich Paxson

      4.6 A little family upheaval: Just draw!
      This module focuses on the new understanding of sin and forgiveness made possible by what Jesus has been doing in our midst.
      Before we jump into that discussion, let’s think about the phrase used by children in rebellion against parental authority: “You’re not the boss of me!” That phrase often captures adult feelings as well. In the Discussion Forum of this unit, share your thoughts on these questions:

      What is important about claiming to be the “boss” of yourself?
      What are some of the pitfalls of clinging to the idea that who you are begins and ends with you?
      Why might it be a relief to discover that who you are doesn’t start with you at all?
      America’s consumer economy, which glorifies overwhelming product choice, continually projects the idea that ‘I am the boss of me.’ Consumerism pushes buyers to choose ‘the best’ product. Marketers showcase the latest and the greatest. Customers, including me, willingly suspend disbelief in their rush to purchase a never-to-be-bested model or version of a product.

      Rather than ‘I really am the boss of me,’ the social other is the force that continually re-creates itself within me. ‘I am the boss of me’ is an illusion, a euphemism for the capacity to conform to social norms that say personal success can be known only through reference to those who are ‘other’ than me. ‘I am the boss of me’ learns it is the products that he or she acquires that make a healthier, more handsome, smarter ‘I am the boss of me.’

      The reading for this section introduces the concept of “secondariness,” which reflects a new [to the reader] relationship between sin and forgiveness. Forgiveness comes first. Sin is “that which can be forgiven.” We are invited to relax into forgiveness “with gratitude.” Alison writes:

      “ … we are held in being by something prior to us, something that is not at the same level as ourselves at all, not in rivalry with anything. This “secondariness” is not a form of diminishment, or being put down, but an accurate and objective sense of createdness, something which can in fact be relaxed into with gratitude.”

      These ideas are so alien to ‘I am the boss of me’ that they seem to be coming from somewhere in outer space, which is the analogy Alison uses to get his point across. “I AM,” who has always held the ‘I am the boss of me’ planet in being, draws the globe into “I AM’s” forgiveness/sin force-field, causing the world’s axis to shift. At first, the shifted axis feels only new and alien, but eventually, the shifted axis engenders awareness that transcends the false, consumerism ideas that ‘I am the boss of me’ is so conditioned to desire.

      • #46956

        You have grasped all this very well Rich. “I am the boss of me” is so fundamental to Girard’s extraordinary insight that we are not autonomous beings. And as James illustrates so well in ‘Jesus the Forgiving Victim’ we are not individuals but interdividuals.

    • #46932
      Rich Paxson

      I like to watch episodes of the television series ‘Blue Bloods’ on Netflix. Blue Bloods chronicles New York City police work through the lens of the Reagan family. Frank, the father, is the Commissioner of Police. Son Danny is a detective. Daughter Erin works as an Assistant District Attorney. Youngest son Jamie is a cop on the beat. A Roman Catholic family, the Reagans observe the tradition of Sunday family dinners preceded by conversation and prayer. These family-time scenes punctuate high drama street scenes of violence and pathos.

      One episode I watched recently portrayed youngest son, Jamie, the cop on the beat, arresting a gravely wounded man who was about Jamie’s age. Another police officer at the scene of the crime had shot and injured the unnamed perpetrator after his fleeing partner-in-crime had fired his gun and wounded a third police officer. The arrested offender eventually was handcuffed to a hospital bed where Jamie was assigned to guard him.

      Jamie initially berated the man in custody, but he overcame this angry reaction recognizing the humanity of the criminal shackled to the bed. When his wound became infected, the bound man (the script had yet to use his name) developed sepsis, a life-threatening condition. The young man asked Jamie if he could have a second phone call to contact his mother, who he had not seen for years. Jamie agreed and eventually brought the man’s mother to his hospital bed when, for the first time, viewers learned the man’s name was Wallace. The rapprochement depicted on the screen portrayed Wallace’s opening to remembered innocence, to forgiveness preceding even heinous crime.

      Jamie’s role made me think of the centurion at the foot of Jesus’s cross, who said: “Truly this man was God’s Son!”

      Jamie and the centurion both represented easily identifiable, uniformed systems of law enforcement. Whether in uniform or not, each of us is conditioned to respond to ‘others’ by enforcing the rights and wrongs recreated in us by the social other. Before passing unforgiving judgments in daily interactions, we need to remember to love, to forgive, even as God loves us.

      • #46957

        You began by speaking of a family situation Rich and I think your ending is similar except that it is the human family, Jamie and the prisoner. As James puts it “The change of perspective that occurs when what seemed like a not?particularly significant object in your ken moving towards you, turns out to be in fact a vastly superior force moving you towards them.”

    • #46933
      Rich Paxson

      What does the world look like through the eyes of one who lives on the outer margins of society? From a distant vantage point, as if on a branch high up in a tree, I watch chronicle the lives of many on the ground who are homeless, living on the streets.

      Who is my neighbor? Riley’s witness from her place on the streets of Toronto calls me like a distant song to hear what she hears, to see what she sees. Riley’s witness to life on the streets entreats me to respond to similar sights and sounds not in her Toronto, but in my city, in my neighborhood. Riley’s witness comes into being in my neighborhood when I live not for myself but in response to the needs of others.

      Through Riley’s eyes, the Forgiving Victim sees my sin, my scapegoating. The social other turns my gaze inward blinding me to the consequences of my self-centered obsessions. And yet, long before my life, Jesus affirmed God’s promise of love and compassion to that other tax collector, Zacchaeus.

      When he came down from his perch in the sycamore tree, Zacchaeus saw life not only through his eyes but also through the eyes of Jesus, the Forgiving Victim. God’s promise of love and compassion is as real today as it was for Zacchaeus. Each of us is free to climb down from our perches above the fray to live into the daily ministry of God’s love and compassion.

      • #46960
        Rich Paxson

        Thank you, Sheelah, for taking the time to respond to my posts! I’m glad the Raven Foundation followed through to repair the JFV website’s technical issues. I will send Maura a thank you email.

        You wrote about James’s “vastly superior force moving [me] towards them.” Often now, this dynamic is quite apparent to me – both in private and in social occasions where I’m now responding with significantly increased tolerance. That is, I find myself becoming willingly present in situations I used to avoid or try to control. Now, I relax into just about anywhere I find myself.

        I’m reading the epistles appointed in the Book of Common Prayer Daily Office, along with Kindle editions of Collegeville Commentaries. The commentaries regularly trigger reminders of JFV material, so these daily quiet times reinforce and refresh the study I’ve completed so far here. Thanks again for your guiding responses, here in the Forum.

      • #46963

        The phrase “my neighbour is all mankind”, is absolutely true Rich. We need to think of Jesus talking to tax collectors and prostitutes, both whom were the outcasts of society in Roman Palestine. These categories are just a metaphor for society’s dejected and yes, as you said ‘When he came down from his perch in the sycamore tree, Zacchaeus saw life not only through his eyes but also through the eyes of Jesus, the Forgiving Victim’. To see through the eyes of another or walk a mile in another’s shoes is a truly life-changing experience which initiates us into a truly Christian life.

    • #46961

      I’m delighted to hear this Rich. Yes, JFV is truly life changing is it not? I am hoping to reply to the rest of your outstanding posts in the next few days.

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