Dear Readers, the idea for this article came from my reminiscences about my Alma Mater, Hillsdale College. I feel that I was too shy to take proper advantage of the great minds and personalities which surrounded me there. Among my reminisces, one professor stands out: Dr. Reist. He was a hoot. A professor not easily forgotten. I’ll never forget the first time he walked into my classroom:
He says: “My wife broke her leg.” The students collectively gasp. Then, Dr. Reist says: “I told her having sex standing up was dangerous.”
That’s a masterful way to break the ice! One day, when he noticed people were not participating or had not done the readings, he told us that we weren’t free. Which is an interesting way to put it! And sealing one’s lips as one looks down at an unfamiliar text hoping that the professor won’t call on one may be compared to slavery. After all, how much more preferable is it to be able to gaze steadily upon the teacher confident in being able to provide an answer to any question and being free to participate or not as you list?
This professor, a fellow New Jerseyan, had once been Catholic but converted to a variety of Protestantism–even became a minister. I suspect the reason for his conversion lay in that he felt Catholicism’s emphasis on faith and works placed too much emphasis on personal merit than on God’s election. (But, even our merits are God’s gifts to us. The idea of cooperation between grace and free will tends to overcomplicate matters from most Protestant perspectives.) However, he seemed grateful for many of the lessons he learned as a Catholic. For example, he once told us: “Do you know that it’s a sin to forget your sins?”
And it certainly is: the sin of pride. In our unending process of repentance, we ought always remember where we have been and all the patience God has shown us and continues to show us despite our iniquity and lack of amendment. Even if we claim that we have progressed far from where we once were, that does not cancel out the fact that we did not deserve to be extricated from our wicked ways of living–that it was pure Mercy which brought us out of each vicious circle. Even after confession where our guilt is washed away, can we ever stop mourning for the wounds we have placed on Christ’s body or forget that we still deserve temporal punishment and have deserved everlasting flames?
So, whenever a non-believer claims that Christians have a nonchalant attitude toward sins because God is so ready to forgive, you can tell him that this is the attitude of the proud or the ignorant. An educated Christian knows that he ought never stop pouring tears into his pillow or cease remembering the wounds of Christ until Christ himself has wiped away every tear and welcomes us into Our Father’s house.