Laws, whether civil or religious, are designed to keep us safe while living in groups, so that we can persevere as imperfect human beings to develop into creatures capable of life-long commitment to another imperfect creature and thus become capable of concern and kindness toward all other creatures.
No person is perfect, no relationship is perfect. But if we resolve to make a relationship work, we can develop peace treaties of love and tolerance to transform a difficult situation into something beautiful. (One may start this, but ultimately it will take two.)
The key to living is not perfection, but perseverance in becoming ever more capable of loving other imperfect beings.
And the most vital part of learning to love ourselves and other imperfect human beings is forgiveness.
And the purpose of forgiveness is grace for personal growth and the ongoing evolution of humanity from survival of the fittest to creatures capable of love for all others.
Reality: Law is a transitory solution. Law was needed for humanity to survive long enough to grow past survival of the fittest into living in community. (Sumerian Code 2100-2050 BC; Babylon’s Code of Hammurabi circa 1760 BC; Hebrew Torah 1330 – now; Twelve tables of Roman Law 450 BC)
But law, by its set in stone nature, becomes a tool of condemnation, a way of labeling and separating people even within a community. Law protects people and property, but does not nourish the spirit needed to create a community of love.
Paul says, “Only in Christ is the veil of condemnation (by the law) removed.” Without knowing in heart and mind that we are loved unconditionally, we have no way of getting free of the need to earn and prove our value, often at the expense of others. Since in reality “All fall short of perfection” (the glory of God), no matter what we accomplish or how good we become…..it is never enough. Generally, this leads to settling for believing that we are “better than” another person, another group, another race, another nationality, even another religion. Instead of recognizing our shared humanity, we see people as the “Other” in order to feel good about ourselves. (Pharisees)
But when freed by recognizing the glory (love) of God in Jesus, we begin to become transformed into His image by God’s Spirit within us.
When we acknowledge Jesus as both our Redeemer and as our Lord, we have found the source of grace to grow free to be servants of all. If we continue to go to that well of grace there is less and less need to outperform, have power over, label, or reject others in order to feel better about ourselves. Unfortunately, it’s a big “IF.”
We are all imperfect and all loved as we are. As we grow in our belief in that, we realize “That we are not competent in ourselves. Our competence comes from God.” We do not have to prove anything. Jesus proved with His life and death that we are of infinite value, as servants not only of God, but of ALL others. (Radical inclusivity)
The gospel displays the love (glory) of Christ, who is the image of God. Christ who did not cling to power or importance, but walked in our skin and learned from others, and grew in wisdom and openness to God within, but also accepted failure, rejection, pain, and death for our sake, so we would know we don’t have to earn, win, achieve, anything in our short span here on earth.
All we are called to do is to admit our limits, focus on God’s love for us expressed in Christ and pass it on in whatever ways God gives us.