Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Romans 2:1 (NLT)
You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.
... Wow! Clobberama! Talk about a direct frontal assault on our ingrained human tendency to see the shortcomings of others while over-looking our own.

Paul is basically reiterating Jesus' humorous teaching that we should be too busy tending to the beam of lumber in our own eye to fret much over the speck of sawdust in our neighbour's eye. (Matt: 5?)

Romans 2:4 (NLT)
Don't you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can't you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?

- And that's another great way to express the heart of the gospel of Jesus. God loves us so much that he willingly covers our shortcomings, seeking to over-whelm our broken nature with generosity and kindness, that we might become like him and adopt this same nature towards one another.

Romans 2:5 (NLT)
But ... you are storing up terrible punishment for yourself.
Romans 2:8 (NLT)
... he will pour out his anger and wrath on those who live for themselves, who refuse to obey the truth and instead live lives of wickedness

- I used to understand this warning as referring to eternal damnation in hell, thanks to my conservative Baptist upbringing. But I no longer see God's anger and punishment in this context.

Let's see if I can explain:

First off, this about-face from the description of how God seeks to save us through love and by faith to suddenly throwing us away in wrath and anger doesn't parse with what we are told elsewhere in the bible about his nature - that God IS love, and he desires eternal life for all of us.

Second, it doesn't jive with God's nature and intent expressed all through the bible books, that many people (and I say many because Paul has just reminded us that we are all, on some level, wicked sinners) would be brought into existence merely to end up being destroyed. Talk about the Ultimate Fail!

Third, my cocept of what Godly wrath looks like and how it plays out has been shaped by my experience with the broken and unrighteous indignation of human beings. But this doesn't make sense. In a very real way, viewing God's anger on us in that way is like picturing a mature adult parent being violently enraged at a new-born infant for messing in his diaper. It just doesn't match the reality of our smallness and frailness compared to God's omnipotence and awesomeness.

I now believe that everything God does with us is ultimately salvific, intended to bring us to our senses and toward a loving relationship with him. I believe that some of us will "get it" more easily than others, and that when we insist on denying God and doing things "the hard way" we encounter the fruits of our own choices. I believe this reality we occupy expresses God's wrath against sin and we experience this in such things as fear, anxiety, confusion, sorrow, broken relationships disease, disaster and ultimately death.

And through all this God cries out to us, "Come here! Come this way and see how much sweeter the journey becomes!"

There's so much more I could write about this topic, but poking out characters one-by-one on my iPad is getting tedious.

In summary, I believe that the results of our own choices, everthing we experience in this life and beyond, and even death itself, is intended for our ultimate salvation into a love-based relationship with God. Some folks will be smart enough to catch onto who God is early on and some of us others will need to go through a few more trials until the penny drops and we see The Light.

Romans 2:24 (NLT)
No wonder the Scriptures say, "The Gentiles blaspheme the name of God because of you."

- Paul continues his extremely direct statements! I'm struck by the similarity with what I see today in western culture when one of the greatest impediments keeping people from Jesus, is the antics of Christians themselves.

Romans 2:28 (NLT)
For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision. No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God's Spirit. ...

- Paul's term "a true Jew" is indicating anyone who fully belongs to God.

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