Some time back I wrote an open letter to Jürgen Moltmann. Two people who read that post provided me with a mailing address for Dr. Moltmann, and so I was actually able to send my letter to him. Today I was delighted to receive his response.
I won’t copy everything he wrote (I don’t like to post personal correspondences without the express permission of the other party), but I will reflect on one of the things that he said.
Basically, my most pressing question for Dr. Moltmann was how he was (and is) able to reconcile the lifestyle of a privileged academic with the theopolitical conclusions of his own theology (a question that is deeply personal to both Dr. Moltmann and I). Here is his reply:
Your personal question is indeed challenging. Should I not leave my position of “privilege and power” and live with the poor? I have asked this question myself many times, especially in Atlanta, where I was attracted to leave my position as guest professor and join the Open Door Community working with the homeless. But friends said to me: Better use your capacities and possibilities to change the theological system and create a new ethics. And therefore I am still on this way.
He then writes this:
It is not my task to judge myself, this is Christ’s task.
I have been thinking about this line all day. You see, I have committed myself to not judging others — and leaving that to Christ — but I had never thought to apply this approach to myself. In fact, I am constantly judging myself… and finding myself to be full of lack, hypocrisy, and failure. So the statement “[i]t is not my task to judge myself” is one that seems to be full of liberating potential. Indeed, grasping this may be a part of what it means to embrace my own brokenness. Here I am, a broken, flawed and failing person… yet can it be that it is not for me to judge myself in this way? If it is Christ’s task to judge me, then instead of judging myself in this way perhaps it is better to say this: “Here I am. Beloved.” That’s all. Full stop. For this is all I have ever known from Christ–a deep awareness of being loved.
Yet, even as I write this, it is hard for me to fully accept it. I hear myself saying, “No, you must constantly judge yourself and evaluate your actions so that you can better serve those in need” or “To refuse to judge yourself easily becomes a self-serving ideology which will allow you to live a self-centred life, so while it’s nice to want to affirm this statement, it is better not to” or again “sure, it’s up to Christ to judge us in the end, but for now we need to be constantly evaluating ourselves so that that judgment does not catch us off guard” and so on.
Thus, even as I am confronted with a statement that is full of so much liberating potential that it brings tears to my eyes, I simultaneously feel a massive urge to flee from this liberation (just as I fled from resting with Christ in my dream four years ago).
I do not know how to be free. I do not know how to pursue the Way of Jesus Christ without judging myself. I don’t know how to be both-disciple-and-beloved, and so, because the lover side seems to be fraught with such sweet peril, I overdo the discipleship.
Well, I’m going to try to be done with that now. I’m going to try to not only embrace my own brokenness, but also embrace Christ as both the one loves me and as the one who will judge me. Amazing grace, indeed! To be free not only of the ways in which others judge us, but also of the ways in which we judge ourselves.
[Just as I was about to post this I remembered something. My name, Daniel, means ‘God is my judge’. How ’bout that, eh?]