"At least that's not me"
POW! right in the kisser... Chapter 1 of Romans drops the hammer on "those" people, the bad kind, the "other" kind. Hearing about "those" people can be soothing. The more we hear, the more we see contrast in ourselves. And most of us don't mind sharing that news too. "They are rotten, but not me." summarizes a great deal of our daily conversation.
Ro 2:1 Therefore you have no excuse, everyone of you who passes judgment, for in that which you judge another, you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.
It's in Romans 1:29-31 that the list of sins is laid out. In one breath Paul offers examples of failures: murder and arrogance among others. "At least that's not me" we say of the murderer. But we cannot so easily say it of the arrogant. The Lord who can read our minds goes directly to our point of weakness. We comfort ourselves with being above others, except that we are in filth ourselves. We are arrogant.
What is more offensive to God? To end a life that he put on earth(murder), or to place yourself in his position to replace him as God(arrogance)? I see I have a lot to learn.
Ro 2:2 And we know that the judgment of God rightly falls upon those who practice such things.
Ro 2:3 But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God?
Ro 2:4 Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
!!!!! The end! The location where this all arrives: the floor of repentance. The floor where we throw ourselves down and cry out "I'm sorrry. I was wrong."
Ro 2:5 But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God,
Ro 2:6 who will render to each person according to his deeds:
our deeds... our deeds... do you feel the tug, to compare your deeds again... To give weight to the one thing you didn't do wrong... Maybe my deeds aren't so bad... at least my deeds aren't as bad as "them"... "At least that's not me".
Ro 2:7 to those who by perseverance in doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, eternal life;
Ro 2:8 but to those who are selfishly ambitious and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, wrath and indignation.
The contrast here confused me for a long time. It sounds like if you try hard, and search for what's good, you will find eternal life in heaven. But if you've read the rest of the book of Romans, that's an impossible idea. Our effort will never get us there.
vs 7 is the default we're born with: a fair chance to live right, do right, and find life.
vs 8 is the reality we choose not long after we're born: we live wrong, do wrong, and lose life.
I take these verses as a foundation for how life could have worked. If Adam and Even had never done wrong, they could have had eternal life. But they didn't obey the truth, and they brought "wrath".
My summary: vs.7 "those who are always good" and vs.8 "those who are sometimes bad"... we fall into the vs 8 category every time.
BTW... did you know there was a big argument between the Jewish christians at Rome and the non Jewish christians at Rome? The talk about Jew-vs-greek or Jew-vs-gentile is for fighting that problem.
| have the "law" (scriptures)
|| have their own thoughts
| have the outward sign(circumcision)
|| have the inward sign (on the heart)
| break the law
|| break their own conscience
Ro 2:9 There will be tribulation and distress for every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek,
Ro 2:10 but glory and honor and peace to everyone who does good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Ro 2:11 For there is no partiality with God.
Ro 2:12 For all who have sinned without the Law will also perish without the Law, and all who have sinned under the Law will be judged by the Law;
Ro 2:13 for it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified.
Ro 2:14 For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves,
Ro 2:15 in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them,
Ro 2:16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.
Ro 2:17 But if you bear the name “Jew” and rely upon the Law and boast in God,
Ro 2:18 and know His will and approve the things that are essential, being instructed out of the Law,
Ro 2:19 and are confident that you yourself are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness,
Ro 2:20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of the immature, having in the Law the embodiment of knowledge and of the truth,
Honestly, I do feel like I have a priveleged position as a follower of God. I can relate to the statements in verse 17-20 even though I am not a Jew. I find comfort in that I am as much on-God's-side as I can be. I try to know Him, comprehend Him, represent Him, teach His ways, and know His truth. But what does that make me??? ...my position is ordinary. I am not in any better place for this. I don't get special treatment and my membership card hasn't arrived in the mail. No special discounts. I have a perfectly equal place with the rest of humanity : I can find God when I seek Him, He will help me when I ask Him, He will save me if I trust Him. That is true for anyone, even the "others".
Ro 2:21 you, therefore, who teach another, do you not teach yourself? You who preach that one shall not steal, do you steal?
Ro 2:22 You who say that one should not commit adultery, do you commit adultery? You who abhor idols, do you rob temples?
Ro 2:23 You who boast in the Law, through your breaking the Law, do you dishonor God?
Ro 2:24 For “the name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you,” just as it is written.
"At least that's not me" ... oops, it is.
Ro 2:25 For indeed circumcision is of value if you practice the Law; but if you are a transgressor of the Law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision.
Ro 2:26 So if the uncircumcised man keeps the requirements of the Law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision?
Ro 2:27 And he who is physically uncircumcised, if he keeps the Law, will he not judge you who though having the letter of the Law and circumcision are a transgressor of the Law?
Ro 2:28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.
Ro 2:29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
Lord, I would rather to throw down the others in condemnation, so that I could elevate myself. I am very human that way, using my comparrison to others to define myself. But I can also see how obviously wrong I am for this. Help me disengage from the normal life of comparrison. Let me just be a plain and simple follower of you. And more... I see and admit my error. I am arrogant, among other things. Please forgive me.
Romans 2 (NASB95) New American Standard Bible : 1995 update. 1995. LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.