Religion Column: Signs of God within

Published 7:00 am Saturday, November 4, 2017

By Father Jonathan J. Filkins,

We would be remiss in believing that the early Christian church was, somehow, unified in its beliefs and practices. Then, as now, we all are regularly assailed by some entity, or personality who espouses a certain variant on the teachings of Jesus Christ.

The Apostle Paul was regularly challenged in keeping the churches under his care on the narrow path. The far flung few were strongly influenced by the local nativist beliefs, as well as those of the very pagan Roman Empire. Far more than just religious pressures, these environments were replete with many political and social pressures as well. If it all sounds a bit familiar to today’s ears, it is!

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In his guidance to his churches, Saint Paul would spend many months, or years, in residence with them. In his absence, he would write letters to them; giving them moral support, advice, direction and, on occasion, a good “chewing out.”

The pesky Church at Corinth was particularly troublesome. The two letters, for which we have record and we call Epistles, are quite different. In the first, Paul is gently asserting his authority, but is encouraging and supporting this fledgling enterprise in their work. Reflecting, to them, his full knowledge of the arduous task which lay before them, he joins them in both religious spirit and physical support.

In the second Epistle, Paul is far more direct in his expectations of the Corinthians, “I write these things being absent, lest being present I should use sharpness.” In the intervening period, the followers had strayed from the message of Christ and combined the multiple influences of their society, into their beliefs. They had lost sight of what it means to have the signs God within, as given to them by our Lord, as we hear the challenge, “Examine yourselves, whether you be in faith, prove your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except you are reprobates?” Ouch. Clearly, Paul was not well versed in populist theology, or social correctness.    

Understandably, those in Corinth were under many pressures. Their physical location was at major crossroads of trade and diverse thoughts. They were at the seat of the major pagan Temple of Diana, under Roman control, and quite near to Greece and all of the panoply of their gods and goddesses. Additionally, it was not quite the fashion to believe in a single, omnipresent, generous, forgiving god, when the rule of the day was for spite and vengeance from multiple deities.

Perhaps it is due to the many years, or the many miles, or the mythologizing of Holy Scripture as being just a collection of fables, that our perception of these events insulates us from the message itself. In reality, we are no further away, then the day the admonitions were expressed, for it is timeless guidance for the entire Church. As Christians, we believe all Scripture is meant for our learning.

Yet, even though we learn, our hearts may not always carry the knowledge. We are prone to forget, or we choose to ignore this knowledge. It is in our nature to do so. It is our God-given nature to make choices, as it is our God-given Savior’s sacrifice given for us.

In our lives, we are called to take His words too us, His guidance for us, and let them live and grow within us. Not only by our words, but also by our thoughts and then our deeds, as we let His light shine from within, as we reflect signs of the power of Jesus Christ to all those in this our troubled world.