Goodness Comes From Reverence
by Fr. Robert D Smith
The pagan Romans in the time of St.Paul ruled the world. They worshipped idols made in the likeness of man or of birds or snakes. To many, even of the Christians at the time, it could have seemed as if, regrettable as it was, that was the best the Romans could do or could be expected to do. The Romans seemed quite confident in the rightness of this worship. In a sense, everyone was engaged in it. How could they be expected at all to do any better?
St.Paul's letter to the Christians at Rome came as a thunderbolt even to many of them. He tells them that the pagans, all of them, knew in their hearts about the True, Universal, and Invisible God, and that they were "without excuse", even were fools, for continuing to worship the wooden or stone idols. (Romans 1:18-23) He then continues, listing all the other depravities that the pagans were guilty of (Romans 1:24-32). What we may not notice is the fact that he connects these two kinds of misbehavior: the worship of idols and the other sins.
He connects the two kinds of sin among the pagans with the words "therefore", "therefore", and "since". After speaking of the fact that the pagans worshipped idols even when they already knew about the Supreme, Invisible and Universal God, St.Paul says:"Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts." (Romans 1:24) The other sins came from their failure to worship the True God and from their putting up false gods in His place.
Shortly, St. Paul says this same thing again. "Therefore, God handed them over to degrading passions...the males...gave up natural relations with females and burned with lust for one another."(Romans 1:26) We see ignorant people on television today claiming that the Bible says nothing against the gay lifestyle. This passage is just one among many that do so.
He goes on: "Males did shameful things with males and thus received in their own person the due penalty for this perversity."(Romans 1:27). The pagan sodomites seem to have been picking up some kind of hideous disease from this perversity of theirs. Finally, St. Paul says: Since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God handed them over to... do what is improper...They are insolent, haughty, boastful, ingenious in their wickedness and rebellious toward their parents. They are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know the just decree of God that all who practice such things deserve death, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them." (Romans 1:29-32). They not only knew their wrongdoing in worshipping idols but also knew their wrongdoing in committing these other sins, so much so that they knew that they "deserved death" for them. Three times then St.Paul connects idol worship with the other sins. "Therefore", "therefore" and "since". Idol worship not only coexists with the other sins, but causes them. Idol worship causes deadly sins in other areas.
The same thing is going on today. The secular world today, the secular media today, have not just concocted a mistaken idea about God, but a totally senseless one. The secular world today teaches that God is a fool, that this God of theirs basically approves of all or almost all moral choices made by men, admires all men for what they do, respects them all for at least having a good heart in what they do. This is just as foolish and senseless an idea of God as is an idol or a snake.
St.Paul is speaking to us. If we worship a correct notion of God, a God who is Good and Who expects good behavior, the rest of morality will tend to take care of itself. If, on the other hand, we worship an evil god, a god who does not really care about morality one way or another, how can we expect to be good in other things? We cannot.
In this way, at least very often, sin comes from pathetically mistaken worship. And goodness comes from authentic worship, reverence for the True God, the Good and Holy God of the Gospels.
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