Before we read Romans chapter two, it’s a good idea to go back and read Chapter one verse seven. This book was written to those who are called to be like Jesus Christ, those loved by God and called to be saints. In other words, those who say they are Christians. When we read the first words of chapter two, it’s easy to exclude ourselves. We prefer to think they were written to the unfaithful. After we’ve been in the faith a while, we prefer to think these words apply to those outside the faith, but this letter wasn’t written to those on the outside.
So, the first words of this chapter require that I ask myself, “Whom am I judging?” I’d like to say no one, but if I’m honest with myself, I know that every day I judge someone. Sometimes it’s the driver of the car that just cut me off, and other times it’s the person on the news arrested for harming a child. I’m pretty sure that noticing the wrong they’ve done isn’t the problem, but when I judge, I find myself thinking things like, “He shouldn’t even HAVE a driver’s license,” or “Lock him up and throw away the key.” I believe judging is not so much evaluating behavior as it is sentencing the “would be” criminal.
You see, sentencing doesn’t take into consideration the “why” of the actions. Not that the “why” makes it right or should keep them from being charged by the state to protect other drivers or children, but from God’s perspective, the perspective from which Christians should always strive to see things, it may change the way we dole out the punishment. God knows whether or not kindness will change the person. So, when we judge from a human outlook, we reject God’s kindness, not just for the one we judge, but for ourselves, too.
These verses are written for the church, probably church leaders. It sounds as though Paul sees some self-righteous, pious, religious snobs who’ve not encountered, or perhaps forgotten, the grace and mercy, the kindness, of their Heavenly Father.
In the final verses of this chapter, Paul speaks directly to the Jews. I like to look at these verses, and others where Paul speaks similarly to his fellow Israelites, as being written to those born into the faith. My parents are Christians, my grandparents and great-grandparents were followers of Christ. I was brought up in the church and generations before me were pastors, Sunday School teachers and Christian leaders. I think that for those of us born into that kind of family, like the Jews, it can be easy to fall into an “entitlement” attitude regarding the faith. It becomes easy to brag about our goodness and our holy ancestry. We begin to thrive on our own self-righteousness, forgetting Paul’s opening words in this letter, that true obedience is born of faith. Our righteousness, circumcision if you will, must come from within, from a changed heart, a heart that has experienced, accepted and understood the kindness of the Father. Then, and only then, will we hear God say, “Well done, my good and faithful servant.”
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