“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator – who is forever praised. Amen. Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural relations for unnatural ones. In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. 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; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.”
I love the book of Romans. I came across these verses the other day and I just had to sit down for a minute and process the words. Paul could have written these words about culture today. I mean, it’s literally right on. I think the concept of “speaking truth” into people’s lives today should involve talking about touchy subjects. I guarantee that some reading these verses think that they are archaic, outdated, and (dare I say it) intolerant.
I’ve been asked some questions lately about why ideas in the Bible seem so unprogressive. I’m sure you’ve been asked the question why does God allow evil in the world? How could God allow so many horrible things to happen to so many? What is the actual problem with homosexual marriage? How does any of that affect you individually? Why do you care? Why the heck do you believe in staying pure until marriage?
Those are hard questions to answer. It’s even harder to give those answers to somebody who doesn’t believe in God or the Bible. And, I am by no means an expert on this material. But, one of the answers I give is that Scripture has authority. If you don’t believe in the authority of the Bible as God’s word, the answers to these questions won’t make sense to you. Maybe you don’t want to believe them because you would be convicted. Maybe you don’t want to have to answer for something that the world encourages. Maybe you would feel shame. It has long been established that God’s way is not the way of the world. The gospel of Jesus Christ is counter-cultural. Another answer I give is that have you ever thought that God’s seemingly outdated values are there to protect you from yourself? Let’s look at this objectively. These verses basically say that when these people strayed from God’s ways, they received punishment within themselves. That may look different for everybody. When you have sex in a relationship before marriage, how many times has that ruined a relationship for you? How many times has that created self-image problems, worry about how to keep someone around or about complications, and a lack of intellectual connection for you? Sure, it’s not always the case, but more often than not, it is. God wants to protect you from that stuff. How much strife is going on in the world right now because people are being bullied, making comparisons, playing the victim, being entitled, being mean to those who are different, and taking the law into their own hands? Is that not just what is being talked about in the end portion of Romans chapter 1?
As Christians, we are called to speak truth into the lives of others. That truth can be uncomfortable. So, on one hand, we have those who don’t stand up for the faith for fear of being labeled intolerant. We have those who partake in “progressive Christianity” (which isn’t true Christianity) when God’s word needs no progressivity. It’s completely relevant just the way it is, even when written centuries ago. God’s word is there for a reason. Then, we have those who go to extreme lengths to preserve the integrity of Christian values in being judgmental towards those who don’t keep God’s commandments… the problem with that is when those people become self-righteous and forget that they are just as broken as the rest of the human race. But, again, have you ever considered that God wants to protect you from yourself and your human nature? Where has human nature gotten us? Look around. It hasn’t gotten us far. It’s important to read the above verses, but also think about what comes next:
“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. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 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? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”
What’s so interesting is that God gave us free will. So, the things going on in the world today are from that freedom of will. And, our human nature has done us no favors, obviously. No person on this earth has ever been perfect, except Jesus. So, I’d say he knows what he’s talking about. But it’s also interesting to note that all these problems come from conscious rejection of God. It’s not as if the people Paul is talking about are ignorant of faith. In fact, they know all about it. Whether you believe in Christianity or not, it’s not about the religion. A full heart-driven transformation is about getting to know who Jesus is and what He stands for. It’s about entering into a personal relationship with the creator of the universe, and he wants to know you. A personal relationship always takes work. It is our duty to address these controversial issues, but with grace, understanding, and nonjudgment. God is the one who will judge you in the end. The point is not about what you can and can’t do, who is better than who, or who deserves what – it’s about the viability and healing of your own soul. Don’t intentionally read the words of God’s truth and twist their meaning to fit your own opinions. It’s our duty to fight for God’s truth, but to do it with love and conviction.
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”