Yeah, that's the subtitle for part of today's Life Journal readings..."God's Righteous Judgment." It's a real feel good kind of subtitle, don't you think? Not. No one wants to think about God in that way. I mean, we know that's part of the bigger picture, but we dont' want to think about it.
I've caught a lot of flack over the years because I'm not a hellfire and damnation preacher. Never have been. It's just not my style, nor is it the way I interpret God. I preach grace, hope, justice for the downtrodden, and those kinds of things. Not to make my folks feel good, but so that we can all be reminded that even on our worst days, on the days when we feel as if we have made more mistakes than we have taken breaths, we are loved. With that being said, today, Paul speaks.
I don't always like Paul. In fact, sometimes I think what Paul really needed was a good kick in the pants, but that's just me. But there I go, doing the very thing Paul is talking about today. Not only do I not always like Paul, I don't always like reading what he wrote, or what we believe he wrote. Today, it's Romans. Not just any part of Romans, it's the first four chapters of Romans. I'm not a hellfire and damnation preacher, but today, forgive me if I seem to be a hellfire and damnation blogger. It's Paul's fault. Dang it, there I go again.
You know, the end of chapter 1 has a pretty long laundry list of sins, and it flows right into chapter two and the whole "for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself." (Remember, we added the chapter and verse divisions. Those weren't in the original.)
Paul is talking about some "they" in the last paragraph of chapter 1, then that "they" becomes "you" in the first paragraph of chapter 2. What hit me as I read that passage this morning is that, more than likely, "we" find ourselves as either a "they" or a "you." The "they" were engaging in activities that were, let's say, less than holy, and the "you" were judging the "they" for those things while engaging in the same types of behavior. Hmmm, sound familiar?
"They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant, and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil..." and he goes on and on. Then he says, "You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself..."
Ouch, Paul. Come on man, lighten up. I was never at the church in Rome, so I don't know exactly what was going on there. But I have been in other churches and have witnessed firsthand the destruction resulting from some of the behaviors Paul is condemning here. What I have also noticed is that it's not usually the big sins that cause the most trouble...murder, God hating, those kinds of things. The ones that usually get us are some of the others...envy, pride, arrogance, boasting...and the big one, gossipping.
James would agree with Paul on that one. "The tongue is a restless evil..." Gossip, in my opinion, is more destructive within a body of believers than a lot of the bigger sins we usually go after. It's usually quiet, sneaky, and done on the sly. But just like tossing a pebble into a pond, the ripple effects are quite far reaching. That's why I don't think it's a coincidence that Paul includes that one sin in the same list with murder and God hating. So, if you're doing it, STOP! Paul would appreciate it.
The one that gets me in that list is in chapter 2. I have a tendency to want to judge, a lot of us have that tendency. So, Paul, I'm going to keep an eye on that. I will be intentional in NOT judging the folks I meet. I will probably fail miserably, but I'm going to try. I will work to see Christ in everyone I come into contact with, recognize that I am no better than they, and that in reality, my sins might even be a little darker. Then, together with fellow believers all around the world, I will ask forgiveness, and take once again my place as a child of grace.