Epistle of Paul to the Romans 2: 1-4 (NIV)
1 You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. 2 Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? 4 Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness leads you towards repentance?
The Apostle Paul claimed, “we know that God’s judgement against those who do such things is based on truth” (verse 2). “Such things” refers to Romans 1: 29-32 where the Apostle Paul presented a comprehensive list of behaviours that spring from “wickedness, evil, greed and depravity”. Two thousand years later, “such things” continue to spread a filthy stain on God’s creation. One has only to reflect on events in Baton Rouge, Dallas, Nice and Turkey as recent examples and on the years-old conflicts in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere to give quick assent.
But we, mere humans, must exercise caution in passing judgement on those who do “such things” today. God’s judgement is based on truth and that truth includes that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3: 23). None of us is perfect and yet perfection is what God requires of his people: “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5: 48). Any blemish in our speech or behaviour renders us unfit for the kingdom of God. The taking of an apple from the fruiterer’s display is as serious an offence as is premeditated homicide in terms of God’s holiness and his judgement. The apple thief will not escape God’s judgement; not any one of us will!
But thanks be to God for Jesus Christ. In him and through him come forgiveness and reconciliation. The Apostle has alluded to this in emphasising that God’s kindness is to lead all people towards repentance (verse 4b). He urged his readers – and urges us – not to “show contempt for the richness of his kindness, tolerance and patience” (verse 4a).
We can be outraged at the evil of events in Baton Rouge, Dallas, Nice and Turkey. We can be outraged at violence within families including in our own society. We can be outraged at all manner of selfishness so readily evident in our culture. Our outrage is not to manifest itself in retributive action, at least not at an individual level. Our outrage should focus our self-awareness to recognise the potential for disobedience and evil in our own lives. It should be an ever-present prompt to show us our own fallen-ness, our inability unassisted to live as God would have us live and our total reliance on him in Christ for forgiveness and redemption.
O Lord, you offer glory, honour and peace for those who do good (Romans 2: 10) and yet none of us is good in our own right. We ask you to regard us through your Son Jesus Christ, the only “good” man, so that the forgiveness he has won for us is evident in your eyes. Amen.