Thanks for coming back today! It’s “DAY TWO” of Deacon Alfred’s Challenge: 16 Chapters to Christmas. The challenge is to read the entire book of Romans, all sixteen chapters, from December 9th until Christmas, based on St. Augustine’s conversion after reading the letters of St. Paul to the Romans. If you didn’t read the first chapter, you can do so at Biblegateway.com or by clicking here and reading yesterday’s blog post. Or, just take the challenge for today and read this chapter.
Here’s Romans, Chapter 2 (today I’m using the NRSV)
The Righteous Judgment of God
Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2 You say, “We know that God’s judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth.” 3 Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But by 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 For he will repay according to each one’s deeds: 7 to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be anguish and distress for everyone 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.
12 All who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. 15 They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them 16 on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all.
The Jews and the Law
17 But if you call yourself a Jew and rely on the law and boast of your relation to God 18 and know his will and determine what is best because you are instructed in the law, 19 and if you are sure that you are a guide to the blind, a light to those who are in darkness, 20 a corrector of the foolish, a teacher of children, having in the law the embodiment of knowledge and truth, 21 you, then, that teach others, will you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal? 22 You that forbid adultery, do you commit adultery? You that abhor idols, do you rob temples? 23 You that boast in the law, do you dishonor God by breaking the law? 24 For, as it is written, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.”
25 Circumcision indeed is of value if you obey the law; but if you break the law, your circumcision has become uncircumcision. 26 So, if those who are uncircumcised keep the requirements of the law, will not their uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? 27 Then those who are physically uncircumcised but keep the law will condemn you that have the written code and circumcision but break the law. 28 For a person is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. 29 Rather, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual and not literal. Such a person receives praise not from others but from God.
That’s a big chunk of holy wisdom to bite at once, so I’ll break it down.
Romans 2:1-16. Go Paul! Way to rip into those self-righteous people in Rome, thinking they’re all holy n’stuff. Oh boy! God is going to judge you people by your hearts, and not by what privileges you all think you’re entitled to because of your social status. Shame, Shame, puppy shame! I’m glad I’m not one of them. Oops. Was I judging? Yikes. Better be careful. I think we were talking about this in yesterday’s blog, weren’t we?
Anyway, what I think Paul is saying here is that each time we knowingly screw up, we disrespect God’s goodness and that’s well…not good. It all boils down to not loving God enough to do the right thing. So we have to be sorry, and I mean really really sorry. And don’t just tell me your sorry because I told you to say it! You’d better mean it! And I mean, really, really mean it! I’m not seeing that you mean it! (oops, the mom in me is coming out).
As I was saying…we have to be truly sorry, sorry enough to actually make a change based on pure motives to change and nothing else.
Stuff like “wrath, fury, anguish, and distress” is just not happy stuff. Best to be avoided. Those words above can’t mean anything good, whether a Jew, Greek, Black White, Latino, or whatever your color. God won’t care about our skin tone when he judges. Wrath, fury, anguish, and distress will rain on everyone. So, regardless of our race, social status, or size of our bank account, our conscience should guide us and help us avoid a downpour that we don’t want to be caught up in on judgment day.
On December 25th, we celebrate the coming of Christ as an innocent baby.
When Jesus comes again, he’s not coming like an innocent baby. He’s coming as the just judge. If we do good in secret, we will be rewarded, and all those sins that we think we got away with, guess what? They’re coming back like those crazy candles you blow out on cakes that re-ignite. Oops!
And my thoughts on Roman’s 2:17-24
Did we not learn anything since the time Paul ripped into the people in Rome? This passage ends with, “The name of God is blasphemed among the Gentiles because of you.” I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard that people don’t go to church because of the so-called “Christians” that they know. I’m probably one of those Christians.
I’m a church-goer who hasn’t always and doesn’t always act like a Christian. I say the “creed” each Sunday, I know the ten commandments, I listen to The Word. Do I really follow all that Jesus commands? Hmm…. This so not an excuse, but a good friend told me once, “Church is a hospital for sinners and not a hotel for saints.” Okay, but if that’s the case, I kind of want to get well and not die in that hospital.
No wonder people are disillusioned with church. They get that sitting in a pew each Sunday doesn’t make people better Christians. But why doesn’t it? It should, right? We need to ask ourselves what we can do about this epidemic. Spiritual pride is the most dangerous of all kinds of pride. The last thing Christians need to do is blasphemy God. Makes sense, right?
Finally, the last passages: Romans 2:25-29. What do they mean to me.
These scripture passages talks about circumcision, but consider any Christian ritual and what it should mean. Now, as an Anglican, I’m all for the sacraments of baptism and confirmation. These Christian rituals and others should change us. Real Christians are Christians outwardly and inwardly. A person whom I know, baptized as an infant, was church-shopping. She told me, “I got saved in church last week, then when out and committed probably the worst sin I’ve ever committed.” This person ended up getting re-baptized at three different churches. She said she was told her first baptism, in the name of the “Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit,” didn’t count because the name, “Jesus,” was not said. Another church had issues with sprinkling versus dunking. And I can’t even remember what the other issues were. Sheesh! C’mon people! In the end, it’s going to be all about “if” the rituals really changed our hearts. Let’s not make a mockery of our Christian rituals and sacraments.
What do you think? I’d love to hear your thoughts on what this chapter means to you. Thanks for sticking with me through Day 2. See ya tomorrow!