After these things the word of the Lord came to Abram in a vision, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great.” But Abram said, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless, and the heir of my house is Eliezer of Damascus?” -Genesis 15:1-2
Dear members and friends,
These past few weeks as I’ve read and contemplated the story of Abram, I have been reflecting deeply on what it means to believe in God. Or in a deeper sense, what it means to have a real relationship with God. There are indeed countless communities on earth today claiming to have religious principles as foundations to their communities. But the most essential and troublesome issue for any religious community has been ensuring that they are living by the very religious principles their community was built upon.
I find it enviable that for Abram, the divine presence was as real as or at times more real than his experience in the physical world! It is almost inevitable that all humans undergo times of challenge and temptation in which the reality of the physical world and its principles appear to be bigger and more necessary than the reality of the spiritual world and its principles. According to Swedenborg, this is because as long as we live in this world, what appears to be true is perceived by our mind as more real than what actually is true. The most inevitable temptation to us all might be the tendency to take what the physical world is teaching as real and necessary over what Jesus is teaching in the Gospels.
Our essential doubt about spiritual reward is symbolized in the brief conversation between God and Abram in Genesis 15. Abram almost never questioned what his God said to him. But, in Genesis 15, when God says, “Do not be afraid, Abram, I am your shield; your reward shall be very great,” Abram replied by saying, “O Lord God, what will you give me, for I continue childless.” This signifies our innate inability as humans to perceive the spiritual reward, because the spiritual reward can never be materialized. Yet, having faith in God means believing that there are spiritual values and cultivating those spiritual values in and through our lives on earth is our most important task as humans. To me, this is what it means to believe in God.
Blessings, Rev. Junchol Lee