The sins revealed in these first three scripture passages are blockbusters—betrayal, idolatry, adultery and violence—the raw material for larger-than-life stories and films. The Bible does not whitewash the sins of its major characters. Their awful failures and wrongdoings are part of the story, as are the human consequences, divine judgment and forgiveness.
In the fragility of goodness, author Martha Nussbaum writes, “The peculiar beauty of human excellence just is its vulnerability.” Goodness is fragile and its vulnerability is part of its beauty. But in several of these scripture texts, it is not the fragility of goodness that stands out but the sturdiness of righteousness.
Though I eventually left the Reformed Church in which I was raised, I did so with a debt of gratitude, most notably for one rather conservative pastor who had met my youthful rebellions with untiring patience.
As a weekend gardener, I have discovered the deep satisfaction of seeing the fruit of a well-watered garden. Months of tending and watering yield a delightful harvest of well-formed, abundant produce. In contrast, a hot summer with little water yields plants that are shriveled and produce that is unusable.
It was a sad day in the history of the church when Paul’s statement about being “all things to all men” first came to be seen not as a call to diversity but as a claim of versatility. St. Paul the Jewish apostle to the gentiles turned into Reverend Paul the Jack of all trades.