“The only way we can receive God’s forgiveness is to realize that we do not deserve to be forgiven.”
Having difficulty figuring it out? That’s ok. Its divine zen. And more significant than one hand clapping.
Its at the heart of Psalm 51, the locus classicus of confession scripture passages. There the Psalmist writes:
“For I know my transgressions, and my sin is ever before me. Against you, you alone have I sinned And done what is evil in your sight, So that you are justified in your sentence And blameless when you pass judgement.” Psalm 51: 3,4 NRSV
Scandalously, God forgives David of adultery and murder in response to this confession and allows him to remain as king. (see 2Samuel 12: 1-23) Divine zen.
Jesus ensures that we do not miss the point by leaving us the story of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18: 9-15).
The tax collector was a sinner. And he knew it. He offered no defence. Looking down, he simply cried out “God, be merciful to me, a sinner.”(v.13) And he returned home justified. Divine zen.
It would seem then that God in His mercy will allow each of us to see the reality of our sinfulness. In order that we may receive mercy. We may all confess that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” But unless we move beyond theological affirmation to existential realization we run the danger of missing out on divine zen.
The truth is we are all sinners. Just that some of us know it better than others. The awareness of our sinfulness may come from our falling into some dramatic and public sin. Or we are suddenly haunted by memories of a colourful pre-conversion life. Usually it comes as a painful surprise, an overwhelming realization that we have failed God by failing someone that we love. Or someone who loves us.
Than suddenly our illusions are stripped away. We see ourselves as we really are. Sinners under the wrath of a holy God.
Paradoxically that may be what saves us.
Do not insult God by even hinting that divine zen is cheap. Not with Good Friday just round the corner. Divine zen was purchased with the blood of God. And divine zen expects that we begin the journey of returning to God’s ways.
But divine zen remains a mystery, beyond the grasp of human logic.
It is also human kind’s only hope.