Remember, this was a letter without chapters and verses, so there was a continual flow in this letter. The reason I bring this up is because the first time I read the last chapter’s list of horrors regarding people who were “steeped in envy, murder, quarrelsomeness, deceitfulness and spite.” Those who are, “whisperers-behind-doors, stabbers-in-the-back, God-haters” People who “overflowed with insolent pride and boastfulness, and in who’s minds teem with diabolical invention . . . scoff at duty to parents; mock at learning, recognize no obligations of honor, have lost all natural affection, and have no use of mercy” . . . my first reaction was to say, “Eeww! I’m glad I’m not like them! Yeah, go get ‘em God! Let the lightning bolts fly, baby, let ‘em fly” But then Paul goes on to say:
Now if you feel inclined to set yourself up as a judge of those who sin, let me assure you, whoever you are, that you are in no position to do so . . . [Ouch!] . . . for at whatever point you condemn others, you automatically condemn yourself . . . [Double Ouch!] —Romans 2:1-2
Going back to The Cotton Patch Version, Clarence Jordan puts it right in our lap:
Now, listen here, man—and that includes every preacher—you have nothing to hide behind. For whenever you preach to somebody else, you’re laying it on yourself, because you, preacher are guilty of the very same things. —Romans 2:1-2
What Paul is showing is that the people who are saying, “Why, we don’t do these things. We don’t live like this. We don’t smoke. We don’t carouse. We don’t go in for sexual licentiousness. We observe the laws. We try to behave ourselves,” are, nevertheless, equally as guilty as the others.
Maybe we don’t do it in the open—we just hide it better—but we commit the same sins as fully as those who do it out in the open. We indulge in such things as malice, strife, deceit, malignity, gossip, slander, and so forth. We, too, are “inventors of evil”; we, too, are “foolish, faithless, heartless, and ruthless.” We cover it by an external appearance of being good, but inside, our hearts are as filled with malignity, envy, jealousy, strife and evil against one another as the others.
I was talking to a friend of mine recently whose son was arrested for DUI. His son is 16 and pulled over, taken to jail and my friend had to go pick up up. Now my friend had a range of feelings. First was angry and felt betrayed by his son; he was embarrassed that it happened to his son; then he wanted to weep because he knew it would be on his son’s driving record for the rest of his life.
He wanted to ground him for the rest of his life; sell his car and forbid him from doing anything outside of his sight. I asked him he really thought that would do any good? My friend look down to the ground and said, “No. Probably not”
Then I asked him some pointed questions. First, I asked him to think about himself for a moment. “I want you to view things for your Father’s point-of-view. Has He ever had to forgive you for something stupid you have done?” He looked at me rather shocked, but admitted that there were many times. Then I asked him, “Did He forgive you, and then help you through those situations?” He nodded.
“Well, when you outdo His forgiveness and help for you, then you have reached the end of what you have to do for your son . . .” Then I explained that the State would punish his son, his job was to comfort his son, support him any and every way he could. There would indeed be fines, court costs, attorney fees. Along with a suspension of his son’s license and all the cost involved with that. So it would not be easy, but if his son was fulfilling the requirements of his probation, then all my friend could do was love and support his son.
That is the realities of our own lives. We will have to accept the consequences of our choices, but the Lord is willing to come alongside of us to support and encourage us. If, and here is the exception, if we refuse to repent, if we harden our hearts, if we refuse His correction, then all bets are off. If you give up on God, as we discovered in the last chapter, God will give up on you.
If interested, you can download the entire study of The Letter to Christians at Rome