Jesus straightened up and asked her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?” “No one, sir,” she said. “Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus declared. “Go now and leave your life of sin.” (John 8:10-11)
Jesus led an affirmed life. This is an important point: for to affirm others Jesus had to be affirmed himself. Thus we see that after Jesus’ baptism the Father in Heaven first calls Jesus “my beloved” and then adds my “son, in whom I am well pleased” (see Matt: 3:17). Jesus’ mission of affirming others came from the fact that he was first of all an affirmed person. Since Mary was a human being fully alive in the Holy Spirit it was impossible for Jesus not to be touched by her affirming presence.
We see throughout the Gospels the tremendous and extraordinary power Jesus possessed to affirm others! People in the presence of the most dire circumstances suddenly find their lives transformed by the dynamic, affirming presence of Jesus. Whether it be the woman at the well, Zacchaeus (the dishonest tax collector), the woman caught in adultery, the man who came to Jesus through an opening in the roof, or the immoral woman who dried Jesus’ feet with her hair, Jesus is authentically open to them, he makes time for them, he affirms and does not condemn them, and ultimately he liberates them from the tyranny of sin. Thus, as one example, he says to the woman caught in adultery: “Has no one condemned you? Neither do I condemn you; go, and from now on sin no more” (John 8:10-11). And Zacchaeus comes away from his encounter with Jesus vowing to make restitution to all those he has defrauded (Luke 19:8).
We thus see that Jesus, who is the supreme exemplar of authentic Christian affirmation, had a remarkable way of being open to others and giving to them the gift of discovering their own inner goodness and of receiving themselves as children of God. Jesus’ method of affirming others involves a liberation from sin rather than an acceptance of sin. Jesus does not condone sin – rather he frees, he heals, he liberates. Authentic affirmation, therefore, does not, as Catholic psychiatrist C.W. Baars points out, consist in “lowering moral standards and precepts with a mistaken notion that this will help people to become happier….” Thus, to try to affirm someone by telling them that pornography is OK, or that illicit sexuality is OK, or that vulgar language is OK, contradicts the Jesus method of affirmation. Jesus never, ever compromises the moral law to affirm someone.
God the Father in Heaven affirmed Jesus once again during Jesus’ Transfiguration, saying, “This is my son, My Chosen one, listen to him” (Luke 9:35). Jesus is our model. He shows us the authentic Christian method of affirmation. Let us listen to him!
Tom Mulcahy, M.A.
Ref. I am relying almost exclusively on a beautiful little book entitled, Born Only Once: The Miracle of Affirmation, by Dr. Conrad W. Baars. Everything in this note flows from Dr. Baars’ book, and I have merely presented some of his ideas in a condensed manner.
Image: Christ and the Adulterous Woman, 1881, by Rodolpho Bernardelli (Public Domain, U.S.A.)
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