Thought on Romans 1 and Judgement
On Monday nights I meet with a group of men to study the book of Romans. Each of us takes turns doing observations on the verses for the night and tonight is my night. We’re in Romans 1, and rather than get into the homosexuality issue (maybe later) one thing is striking me as interesting and it’s this:
24 Therefore God gave them over in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, so that their bodies would be dishonored among them. 25 For they exchanged the truth of God for [p]a lie, and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed [q]forever. Amen.
26 For this reason God gave them over to degrading passions; for their women exchanged the natural function for that which is [r]unnatural, 27 and in the same way also the men abandoned the natural function of the woman and burned in their desire toward one another, men with men committing [s]indecent acts and receiving in [t]their own persons the due penalty of their error.
28 And just as they did not see fit [u]to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, 29 being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, 30 slanderers, [v]haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; 32 and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
When we think of God’s judgement we usually think of the bad guys getting punished–maybe with a spiritual surgical strike– where there’s no collateral damage and when the dust settles the good guys are left standing.
But here we have this idea that God says “Okay, have at it. ” What follows is one evil thing piled onto another. They’re like dogs, running away from their master, leash dragging in the dirt, tearing up the neighborhood as they go. Wait? this is judgment?
I have a few thoughts on this passage.
First, at this point in my life I can’t imagine a worse life than being allowed to indulge into whatever I wanted. As any addict will tell you, indulging in pleasure without restraint is a process of gaining more desire for something that gives you less and less pleasure.
Second, the people under judgement here seem unlikely to show love to each other. They give approval to those who live like they do. But that list of characteristics doesn’t sound like a very fun party. At least not for very long. I’ve known people like this. It’s all fun and games until they turn on each other.
Third, and this is the unsettling one (for me anyway) is that the effects of these acts don’t seem limited to those who are under judgement. There is collateral damage. Parents suffer because of the sins of their children. These lives touch the lives of people who are trying to please God and the godly ones get burned.
Eventually, God says, “Enough”. In the Old Testament we see God delaying destruction until various people groups sins reach their “full limit.” There is a final judgement, but there is also judgement leading up to that.
Life is messy.