LENT No Partiality

1 Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.

6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well- doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self- seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. (Romans 2:1–11 ESV)

At the beginning of his letter to the church at Rome, Paul writes about people who do “not honor him as God or give thanks” and because of that they traded the truth of God for a lie and were given up to dishonorable passions — becoming gossipers, liars, haters of God, murderers, mothers rapers, and father stabbers. (And father rapers!) Despite knowing the will of God for their lives and for the world, they have been given over — and have given themselves over — to sinful, lustful, disordered lives.

And they deserve to die.

While often quoted as God’s judgment on certain kinds of lifestyles, the first chapter of Romans appears largely to be a setup for what we have today. For Paul, in pointing out the sinfulness of some, lets his readers know — “You have no excuse.”

For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 

It seems to me Paul is telling a group of people who perceive themselves as sinless (or at least in a position to judge and condemn the sinfulness of others) because of who they are that no, God doesn’t favor a person or a people merely because of their identity. God cares how we act. God cares how we treat each other and ourselves.

And God is no respecter of persons merely because someone is chosen by God. The one who is chosen of God is not entitled to sin (and the list of sins Paul deals with in chapter one are long, and don’t merely involve sex) and then judge others.

Of course, many Christians live in a world with a hierarchy of sin. Some is worse than others. To condemn the sodomite and the catamite, while living “foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless” lives seems acceptable, even proper, maybe because Paul makes such a big deal out of living with “dishonorable passions” and not so much out of being greedy, lying, murderous bastards. (Rome was filled with them too.) But while Paul does point out, and does condemn (and perhaps does so ironically as part of his setup), he also reminds his readers — and us — that we don’t have that luxury. We are sinners too. Because the whole point of the kindness and grace of God is repentance. To get us to change our lives. And not worry so much about how others live.

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