“WE ARE NOT LIKE THEM!”
“You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else for, at whatever point you judge another, 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 human being, 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, forbearance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance? But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against the day of God’s wrath, when His righteous judgment will be revealed.” Romans 2:1-5.
So, who is Paul talking to now? Again, he highlighted people’s behaviour, not their clan or category. His words can apply to anyone in any religious group who acts like this.
The first group of people he indicted was the group who refused to acknowledge the true God. Instead, they created gods for themselves who would sanction their evil behaviour because their gods were just like them regardless of what they looked like. They were religious alright, but their “religion” was invented to suit them.
The second group was equally religious, but this lot, (obviously the Jews), claimed to worship God. The problem this time was not so much who they worshipped but what they thought and said about the idolaters. “We are not like them. We don’t worship idols. We worship the one true God.” They had had their experience of idolatry. It cost them their land, their temple and the indignity and suffering of exile in Babylon for almost two generations. They were fiercely loyal to their God, to a fault.
However, they were so contemptuous of non-Jews that they would have nothing to do with them. They regarded them in the same category as dogs simply because they were not Jews. Jesus came in for a great deal of criticism because He refused to bow to their arrogant attitudes. He interacted with anyone who had a need and anyone who came to Him.
“But, wait a minute,” said Paul. “You who are so contemptuous of idol-worshippers and sexually promiscuous people, what is your behaviour like behind closed doors?” They were quick to point fingers at others, but three fingers were pointing back at them. Even if they were not worshipping idols in public, they were guilty of a far worse form of idolatry – they worshipped themselves. They had set themselves up as the standard for right and wrong. They measured themselves against themselves and found themselves not guilty and everyone else guilty.
Once again, just like the idol worshippers whom they so despise, people who practise religion, that is, any belief system that attempts to reach the deity by self-effort, be it God or any god invented by human imagination, are equally guilty of failing to acknowledge God or give thanks to Him. Instead, they acknowledge themselves and set up their own system of so-called worship, using rules and ritual to reach their god.
Even believers in Jesus can be guilty of this form of idolatry. This was the issue Paul battled in his letter to the Galatians upon which Romans is based. The Judaisers were adding their bit to the good news about Jesus. His sacrificial death was not enough to save Gentiles, so they said. Gentiles needed to be circumcised to gain entry to Judaism first. Jesus plus! They thought they knew better than God.
“Jesus plus” is still being peddled today; Jesus plus the baptism of the Holy Spirit; Jesus plus tongues; Jesus plus baptism; Jesus plus good works; Jesus plus self-inflicted punishment; Jesus plus discipline, etc. None of these extras add to the efficacy of His death to rescue and redeem guilty sinners.
The problem with those who treat offenders with contempt and judge them by their standards is that their heart attitude is far more heinous in God’s eyes than the things they judge in others. It was pride that brought Lucifer down. Pride excludes people from grace. Pride blinds our eyes to the goodness of God, the very thing that should bring us to repentance.
Strangely enough, accusation and condemnation do not bring us to repentance. They only drive us into guilt or defensiveness. It is the kindness and mercy of God towards us that makes us change our mind about Him and draws us to Him. There is only wrath for us until we realise just how good God really is.
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