You may have heard the story about Adam (the first man in God’s family), Eve- Adam’s mate, the tree of knowledge of good and evil and that humans die physically and spiritually from “eating that apple” that knowledge…doing what is forbidden, learning about evil and doing it. Few if any of us has escaped knowing and doing something bad sometime in our lives.
Paul, in Romans Chapters 1-3, expresses his concern and his understanding of evil, these bad things of all descriptions. He says, and there are other scriptures to support his ideas, that God tries to speak to people through nature when they do not have sufficient teaching from others. He says God is very patient, kind, and forbearing with the intention of leading people to repentance and change.
Many people of conscience suffer from a sense of sorrow and guilt for their attitudes and actions or their lack of them. Accepting ourselves as imperfect beings and asking God’s forgiveness for our imperfections is a large part of becoming whole persons. Perhaps God does not even expect us to be perfect, for “God knows our frame.” Perhaps the most expected of us is to be as mature as we can be within the restraints of our life situation here and now.
To continue with Paul, he believes that anguish and distress follow all kinds and degrees of evil-doings. Another way to say this is, “All actions have natural consequences.”
Paul also believes that God sometimes gives people up to continue following their impure impulses and passions when they persistently refuse to honor God and be thankful. Paul warns us that God will judge the secret thoughts of all of us, and that we are not to judge others when we are doing some of the same things and even applauding others for some of their bad behaviors.
Righteousness, being right with God, does not come from our knowing what is right and wrong. Most of us fail to do what we know is good sometimes in our lives. But God is righteous and since we are incapable of living rightly at all times, God has chosen to justify us, make us right with God, by God’s grace, a free gift to us who have the faith of Jesus (Romans 3 and Ephesians 2). God teaches us and will lead us in a right way of living, a life of right relationships, if we are willing.
Faith is simple. Young and old are capable of receiving faith as a gift from God. Perhaps it is we who are in the middle of life who have difficulty accepting faith in this age of science.eace
The more we know about science, however, the more we realize that faith is a necessity in all of life. We learn that we cannot operate with 100% certainty! We learn that our knowledge is never complete or wholly accurate. We learn that we cannot control all others and all things at all times. We learn that we have limited knowledge, will, wisdom, capability, and power. We realize that others have the gift of freedom and choice. We learn that Nature has the whole range of possibilities, not just probabilities. And given time, all things are possible, perhaps even probable. Many of us learn, perhaps only when all else fails us, that God cares, regardless of our circumstances. Truly, God is with us, waiting for us to call on God.
In Ephesians, a book of the New Testament, we read,
“As he (Jesus) came, he preached peace to you far away and peace to those near because through him we both have in one Spirit entrance to the Father.” Saint Paul.
Ephesians 2:17,18 Berkeley Version.
When Paul was talking about those who were far away from God he was referring to those who were not Jewish and didn’t have the “Torah,” or teaching and instruction from God, about God and what God wants us to do and be as individuals and as a society. The Jews were “near” but still lacked peace.
The same lack of peace is true for those of us who are far from our mothers and fathers (and/or faith community). We either did not have our parents’ (significant others’ or congregation’s’) teachings, do not agree with them, and/or do not live by them. We may feel guilty, far away, isolated, and separated from the parent, from God, and God’s people. We may not feel loved by them.
We may feel confused about God. Jesus tells us that God is Spirit (John 4:24). John tells us God is Love (I John 4:7-12). Jesus said what is born of spirit is spirit and what is born of flesh is flesh (John 3:5-8).
Jesus also explained that in heaven, people do not marry, but are as the angels, implying that as spiritual beings in heaven we will be without sexuality. Some languages refer to the Spirit of God as female and some as male. God may be neither male nor female since that is a physical characteristic of a physical body. Or perhaps God is both, since scripture studies find both male and female characteristics attributed to God, and the story of creation in Genesis 1:27 says male and female were created in the image of God.
We idealize characteristics of fathers and mothers, including love, that are also characteristics of God, but the ideal characteristics are reflected imperfectly in our parents.
With all this confusion, with all our imperfection, how can we become part of God’s Family?
It may be easier to approach God as Spirit, than as Father. If that is true for you, please substitute some other word for Father or Parent whenever it refers to God. Great Spirit, Source, Creator, Holy One, Friend, or God are just a few of the possibilities. Hashem is a term used among Jews. Allah, among people of Islam.
Paul is saying that through Jesus, all of us whether or not we are “evil” or “righteous”, those who are near to God and those who feel far away, may have peace with God and with one another as one spiritual family whose father is God.