Dear Inspiration Seekers,
You might expect, when I started this discussion with my emphasis on Order, that my Enlightenment oriented thought process would focus on Reason over Mystery. Paul even mentions the concepts of Wisdom (1:17) and Enlightenment (1:18). However, shortly thereafter, he brings up a topic that I like to avoid as much as saints: Evil, the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient (2:2). Damn! I guess I have to address that now.
My aversion to the concept of evil goes back to my childhood, concrete understanding of the idea that people and actions had an inherently destructive nature. Furthermore, this destruction came from a fallen angle, with names of the Devil, Satan, Lucifer, etc. Furthermore, as I moved into youth and young adulthood, so little, other than Star Wars, seemed to live in a good-verses-evil reality. Black and white were separated, not by a firm boundary, but a vast range of shades-of-grey, in which most of our lives seemed to dwell. Christ and Satan stood at the two poles of the spectrum, with all us saints and sinners muddling about in confusion.
Paul first gives thanksgiving for the grace that allows Christians to have faith, to which the Spirit (oh, damn, another concept that I prefer to slip past) provides wisdom and revelation that connects to Order. He then contrasts this with the pre-Christian condition of Disobedience to Order, in which people gratify the cravings of their sinful natures. The outcome of following order is fulfilling the purpose of creation: to do good works. The outcome of Disobedience is to become the Object of wrath.
This brings up the concept of the outcome of intent and action. In that vast grey area of life, we may act in many ways. Whether those actions are “good” or “evil” may have less to do with some absolute standard than the motivation behind the action. Is our impulse to give guidance to someone related to following some 7-, 10-, or 12-step program to better living, prosperity, and wealth? Is our counsel offered to show how smart we are at problem solving and controlling someone else’s life? Do we offer our suggestions because of our concern for the other person? We may still give the same advise, find a way to show your emotions more clearly… wait for a good time to have that discussion… even when your are upset, can you identify something to thank the person for… but the outcome may be good or evil.
The phrase object of wrath (2:3) at first tripped me up, as I read that the outcome of Disobedience would be Wrath. However, after a couple of readings, I began to see that Paul is saying that disobedient people become the Object. An object is something that is acted on, not the origin of the anger. In parallel, works become good because one draws upon one’s faith, rather than following some set of Laws. Order/Disobedience. Faith/Wrath. Good/Evil. Love/Indifference.
In that vast range of grey, each action that we take, depending on our motivation, brings us closer to one pole or the other. Without Enlightenment, we are objects. With revealed Wisdom, we might begin to touch the Mystery of the incomparably great power (1:19).
Until next time, Inspiration Seekers