By means of preface, this post is for me and for those of you who have read and agreed with my general premise in these last two posts.
As I sat down to read this morning, I felt like I should go to Romans. At first I resisted, thinking I had spent too much time blogging and needed some better perspective. The urge persisted, so I grabbed my coffee and sat in my favorite chair.
I opened to Romans 1 and, as you might expect, felt a mixture of peace/vindication. “OK, I’m really not crazy. This really is clear.” Then I got to Romans 2:1-8, emphasis mine:
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgement do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things (the things referenced in Romans 1:18-32) is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgement on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?”
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of his wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger.
That was a Holy Spirit gut punch this morning. I’d like to share with you some of my processing.
First, the words of Jesus to the men wanting to stone the adulteress woman, “Let the one who is without sin throw the first stone.” The only person qualified to pass judgment on sexual immorality is the one who is not sexually immoral. Now Paul just declared that sexual immorality is sin deserving of punishment, so I don’t think stating those truths and telling people what God says about something is passing judgment. “Passing judgment” is, I believe, when we take upon ourselves the duty and desire to punish people for their sin.
We are currently living in what Jesus called “the favorable year of the Lord,” the time when “all who call upon the name of the Lord will be saved,” and when Jesus says to sinners “Neither do I condemn you, go and sin no more.” So, as those called to carry on the message and ministry of Jesus, we are called to acknowledge that people are sinners AND declare to them the Gospel, the path to forgiveness through the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. Whether they choose to “go and sin no more” is ultimately up to them – our job is to declare to people what God says about sin, try to help them see their need for a Savior, declare to them the Good News of Jesus and help them mature as disciples if that is the route they choose to take. We warn but we do not punish.
Jesus and Paul also acknowledged that this extended season of God’s favor would end and that there would be “the great and terrible Day of the Lord,” “the Day of vengence of our God,” “the Day when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.” This Day is a short season where we see things as they truly are – sin is punished and righteousness rewarded. We aren’t there yet and when we do get there, it will be God doing the judging, not us.
Where I get to eat a large slice of humble pie is when Paul talks to the Romans about condemning sin while doing the same things they condemn. I’ve never had sex with another guy, but I have been addicted to porn. And while that addiction has largely been defeated, it still resurfaces from time to time. The point is, there is still a large portion of my heart that has yet to submit to Jesus. I am not a finished project, netiher are you, and neither are the other people in our lives. Recognizing this, and being open about my own failing, helps me to walk a little softer and speak a little gentler.
What I don’t want is what Paul calls “a stubborn and unrepentant heart” that stores up judgment for itself. I never want to be so caught up in my own self-righteousness that I think I’m the only one who is right and everyone else is wrong. I want to be constantly realigning my heart to the Truth of God’s word. I don’t just want to read the Word, I want the Word to read me, like it did this morning.
Who is the better friend?
As I was processing these things and debating wether or not to change or retract anything I’ve said these last few days, I felt like Holy Spirit gave me a picture/parable and it helped settle things for me.
Imagine someone comes to you holding out a pill and says “Take this, exercise your freedom, live a little – it will feel great.”
And then another person, overhearing this, turns and says to you, “You can do whatever you want, but just so you know, everything I’ve read says that, if you swallow that pill, there is at least a 50% chance it will kill you.”
I’m not perfect. I have flaws and failings that I try to be very open about. But I don’t think that disqualifies me from sharing with them what I believe to be the truth.