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  • He sat at the keyboard in the narrow office of his home, his shih tzu curled up in the blue doggy bed on his right, the shades drawn against the bright sun of the emerging day.

    “What was it I was going to say this morning?” he thought as he took another drag from his cigarette and followed it with a sip of coffee. He'd gotten plenty of sleep the night before, a whole five hours of dreamless silence. The morning activities were accomplished; Olivia had been fed, he had taken his pill and vitamins, fixed a morning sandwich of roast beef on rye and sat at the dining room table with the Bible open to Romans today. Paul writing to the Jews in Rome about the universality of sin in both Jews and Gentiles. A very powerful beginning, building a foundation of faith against the idea of salvation through the law and works.

    It's a pretty interesting commentary. Paul begins with the premise that God is known to man before he learns about religion or ritual. Many years later, Emerson would write almost the same thing. Paul states that God is known in his creations, that you merely have to look to see Him in all things. Emerson extended that thought to include not only God's presence, but His knowledge as well. His thought was that if man would become one with nature and all that surrounds him, he would gain a deeper and more profound knowledge of God.

    But where they differ is in the nature of man. Emerson believed all men inherently good by nature, and concluded his communion with nature would lead to enlightenment and peace. Paul accepts the fallibility of man, and further states that all men, whether Jew or Gentile, are flawed.

    The Jew is flawed because he does not follow the law given by God to Moses. This law, the Ten Commandments, contains all the principles required to live a righteous life. But Paul knew men did not follow the law, and were therefore condemned by it. He further concludes Gentiles, while not under the law, know without hearing the law which things are bad and which are good. He concludes that all men who live by the law, whether they know it or not, are righteous in the eyes of God, while those who do not are condemned by God. He then states unequivocally that all men have broken the law, and that without God's mercy and grace, cannot be justified before God.

    The concept is powerful and mind blowing, to say the least. We think of ourselves as much more sophisticated than the people who lived when the Bible was written, even more sophisticated than the transcendentalists in Emerson's time. Yet look around you: yes, our technology allows us to perform virtual miracles; yes, we have advanced far beyond the abilities of our ancestors. But have we improved the basic nature of man?

    Unfortunately, No. Man is still a flawed creature who allows avarice and lust to dictate his thoughts and actions. The past decade is awash with evidence of our shortcomings; bankers and the wealthy conspiring with corrupt politicians to deceive the people and deprive them of what little they have, widespread distribution of pornography and legalization of gambling, terrorists of domestic and foreign origin killing innocents without cause or provocation. Our nature has not changed since the time of Christ. We are as corrupt as we ever were, but with our new found abilities, we are able to spread this corruption on a much grander scale.

    But am I saying we should just throw in the towel, keep our heads down, and hope to survive? God forbid. If you have read anything of what I have said in the past, you know I am a believer in the ability of man to rise above his limitations to achieve a far more enlightened world.

    Perhaps that is why I am a Christian. You see, within each of us there is a spirit of spirit of hope and promise that surpasses our circumstances. We prove it every day. We arise, get dressed, and greet the day with hope that it will be better than yesterday. We open our hearts and minds to the possibility of a better world for ourselves and our children. We believe there is a better way.

    For me, the spirit I refer to is the gift of the resurrected Christ, the God who took on human form to show us it is possible to live a life without negatives, a life without sin. Or would you prefer a life without lawlessness? That's what we are really talking about, isn't it?

    What are laws? Laws are the manifestations of the ethics we have agreed to in the majority to establish a way to coexist with our neighbors. More simply, they are the rules we agree to play by in life. And they are based on principles we mutually and inherently know to be right. Don't commit murder. Don't steal. Don't interfere with the relationship between a husband and wife. Treat one another with respect.

    Oh, we've spent centuries trying to find ways to circumvent these laws. We even have a profession dedicated to interpreting laws and twisting them to fit the circumstance of the moment without concern for their meaning. Which goes to prove Paul's point. We are so flawed we cannot obey our own laws, let alone the laws which were given to the Jews by God, the laws we all know are right without being told.

    Quite often I hear criticism of Christians that is unfortunately well deserved. Christians are no better at following the law than Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, or anyone else who claims to follow a faith. Yet they should be, since their obligation under their chosen title is to live as a witness to Jesus. That witness is not accomplished in their words, but as all men, with their actions. And those actions are often contrary to the teachings of Christ.

    But there is hope for all mankind. You see, not only did Jesus come to teach, but to offer himself as the ultimate sacrifice for those who could not follow the law, which is all of us. Jesus, the manifestation of God in human form and the indwelling Spirit that calls you to do what is right, loved us so much he sacrificed his life to atone for our shortcomings. By accepting his gift of salvation, you come out from under the veil of condemnation inherent in your daily life and allow the Spirit to guide your daily decisions.

    What was it I was going to say this morning?

    I love you.

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