My beloved spiritual Children in Christ Our Only True God and Our Only True Savior,
CHRIST IS IN OUR MIDST! HE WAS, IS, AND EVER SHALL BE. Ο ΧΡΙΣΤΟΣ ΕΝ ΤΩ ΜΕΣΩ ΗΜΩΝ! ΚΑΙ ΗΝ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΙ ΚΑΙ ΕΣΤΑΙ.
ORTHODOX VIEW OF SIN: SOCIAL AND MORAL CONTEMPORARY ISSUES
An Introduction to Morality by V. Rev. Father George Alberts
Before we can consider moral issues, we need to look at such things as God, Man and Salvation. Unless we understand these things, we can't really discuss moral issues because we will have no basis for judgment. If you really understand the basic beliefs of the Church, then you can pretty much determine what is and isn't moral.
The basis of the Christian Faith is love. God created everything out of love. God created the Angels out of love as His Ministers. They serve Him and mankind as well. These Angels are free to serve Him for eternity--They live in His presence and do not die. We know that He gave them a free will as well, because Satan-one of the Chief Angels--and others with him, rebelled against God and continue to fight against Him and us to this day. This is called spiritual warfare. But God's love didn't end. He didn't give up because Satan rebelled.
God created the earth and all that is in it as an expression of His love and He created man to enjoy it. He gave him rule over everything. Everything was good. God again expressed His love for man in creating woman so that man would not be alone. In this new creation, we find an interaction and interrelationship of God, Man, Woman and creation. All was perfect and good.
Part of this perfection was the Free Will that God gave to them. Mankind was given the ability and freedom to choose right or wrong. God did not program or force man to obey Him. He did not make him a slave or robot. As a result, their love for God was a true love-not forced or coerced. Satan entered in at this point, taking advantage of the Free Will that God gave to Mankind. When tempted, man chose to disobey and leave God. Satan tempted him in order to take man away from God and further his struggle against God. Man freely chose to follow Satan's temptation to be like God. As a result of this choice, everything changed drastically. This change is known as The Fall.
With this Fall, man's relationship with God suffered greatly (Genesis 3:1-24). Mankind had rejected its Creator and now He rejected them, so to speak, by casting them out of the Garden of Eden. He put a barrier between man and beast so that they no longer had this loving relationship, which was present before the Fall. Man was forced to labor for all he desired. Sin and Evil entered the world. No longer was the relationship between man and woman free from evil and temptation. Adam and Eve realized their nakedness. Jealousy, hatred, and murder entered into the world with the killing of Abel by his brother, Cain (Genesis 4:1-16). The world became filled with sin and evil as witnessed in the time of Noah (Genesis 6:5-8) when God was sorry He created man; and later God's punishment of Sodom and Gomorrah because of their sins (Genesis 18:2-21). Man had turned his back on God and many loved evil and hated good (could this be happening today?). The second great result of the Fall was mortality. No longer could man live forever on earth. Now man faced death. Some died old and some died young. Today, we still suffer those consequences. Sin and evil fill the world and all of us must face a physical death.
Throughout the history of mankind, God has tried to make peace and restore man to his former position and relationship. God destroyed the world in a flood, but He saved the righteous Noah and his family. In this way He gave man another chance. As a sign of this new relationship and Covenant, He created a rainbow to remind man of what happened and why it happened and to show that He would not destroy the world by a flood again.
Again man tried to surpass God by building the tower of Babel to bring God down to earth, but God confused their languages and scattered them. God then chose the Hebrew people as His Chosen People. He made a covenant of mutual faithfulness with Abraham that they would be His people and He would be their God. Circumcision would be the symbol of this Covenant (Genesis 17:1-14). Abraham, Isaac and Jacob became the Patriarchs of Israel. Time after time the people would turn away from God and He would send Prophets to warn them to repent. Finally, He sent His Only-Begotten Son into the world to save us from sin and death and reconcile us to God the Father once again. Christ died and rose again from the dead and ascended into Heaven so that mankind could once again be reunited with God. With Christ's death, He destroyed the first of man's enemies, which is death and restored us to eternal life. With His ascension, He showed us the bodily Ascension into Heaven, which will take place for all of us at His Second Coming. And at Pentecost, He sent His Holy Spirit to live in us and His Church and reunite mankind, which He scattered at the tower of Babel.
God, Who had created Man in His own Image and Likeness, became man so that man could become like God. Those who followed Christ, all of us, became the New Israel, the New Zion, and the New Chosen People of God. What Adam had destroyed--sinlessness and eternal life--the New Adam, Jesus Christ, had restored by bringing forgiveness of sins and eternal life into the world. What Eve brought into the world, the New Eve, the Ever-Virgin Mary, changed. She gave birth to God the Logos/Word, the Life of the World, and the Forgiver of sins and Conqueror of death.
Now that you have this brief background in what the Church teaches us about Salvation History, we can look at several things that we need to be sure and focus on when we discuss moral issues.
If we really understand our Orthodox Christian Faith, then we will have a better chance at making a judgment as to the morality of a situation. Let's remember that we learned the following important things: God is perfect love (agape). Man is made in the image and likeness of God. Man and creation are good. Because of these things, anything that tries to warp, tarnish (corrupt) or destroy man and creation is evil.
Out of love, God created man in His own Likeness and Image and therefore, man is an Icon of God. What does this mean? All of us are called to reflect the qualities of God. As Christ said, "You, therefore, must be perfect, as your Heavenly Father is perfect" (St. Matthew 5:48). We must avoid sin. These sins are spelled out for us in the Holy Scripture. Second, we are temples of God's Holy Spirit, which dwells in us (1 Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:9-20). That Temple should not be defiled by sin. Our body is sacred and should be treated with respect in both life and death. Finally, we should love, honor, and respect others, as they too, are icons of God and temples of His Holy Spirit.
Since Man and Creation are good and holy to God, whatever tries to warp or destroy them is evil and sinful. It is then sinful to destroy God's Creation. It is also sinful to take away life, which God creates. It is also sinful to warp what God created. This means we should not misuse it, mistreat it, or use it in an Unholy and sinful manner--a manner contrary to what God intended it to be used for. It is also sinful to warp and distort the positive attributes of God into something ungodly. These attributes include things like love, forgiveness, mercy, justice, etc.
When we are asked to judge an action as moral or immoral; ethical or unethical; sinful or sinless, we should ask ourselves the following questions:
- Is life destroyed by the action?
- Is what God created misused or mistreated?
- Are we doing evil in order to get what we want?
- Are the rules, laws, and guidelines given to us by God followed, broken or warped?
- Would the consequences of our actions be acceptable to God?
- Are we tarnishing God's image in us or in others by our actions?
- Are we breaking any promises or covenants we made with God?
- Would God approve of our actions?
- Would I be doing this if God were standing next to me?
- Can I defend my action before God?
If we use what we know and have learned about who man is, our relationship to God and His relationship to us, we should be able ask ourselves these questions and feel comfortable with the answers we give. By understanding what Christ and the Church teaches us, we can usually make very good decisions about moral and ethical questions, even more modern problems that we will face in our lives. We will be looking at some of the issues, both old and new, that we face today and see what the Church has to say about them. As we go along, ask yourselves the above questions and see if you can figure out why the Church says what it does.
(Next: Morality: LOVE, SEX, DATING AND MARRIAGE)
"Glory Be To GOD For All Things!"--Saint John Chrysostom
With sincere agape in His Holy Diakonia,
The sinner and unworthy servant of God