“For God shows no partiality”
Have any of you heard this phrase?
“I don’t have to outrun the bear-just outrun you”.
It’s a funny saying, but yet it means much more than we realize.
We don’t have to outrun the ultimate means of our demise-sin-we just have to be faster than the person next to us. I propose that this is how many people view morality today.
We don’t have to outrun evil. We just have to be better, faster, more good, more pious, than the next person. We all can sigh with relief because we aren’t Dahmers or bin Ladens or the like, even if we do dabble around in sin a bit.
We are decent people just trying to good for ourselves.
If I am being as good as I can be, that’s enough-right?
The road map that is Romans takes us down the path we wander as humans in chapters 2 and 3. He brings to light an issue that nobody gives much voice to; the fact that humanity is just concerned (if at all concerned) with simply staying ahead of our neighbor.
We just want to be “good people”, whatever that may look like. And one way we naturally measure our progress is by how far ahead we are of other people. When confronted with our own sin, we usually argue by pointing out other people’s flaws; as if by bringing them to as low or lower of a place than we are, we can justify our own actions. We are effectively trying to push other people closer to the bear than we are, to make ourselves feel better. Unfortunately, as we see in Chapter 3, nobody is righteous in their own merit. “For by the works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” says Romans 3:20. Trying to “do good” and do our best means nothing. We are all under sin.
To put it simply-God doesn’t want us just outrunning the bear. He does, however, want us running-toward the Lamb. This is what we are going to examine today.
Running from the bear:
Romans chapter two deals a lot with the hypocrisy of the people. Paul points out this with a few simple statements:
“You then who teach others, do you not teach yourself? While you preach against stealing, do you steal?….You who boast in the law dishonor God by breaking the law.” -Romans 2:21-24
This kind of action is still true today. We do have laws in place, this is true. But while we condemn certain actions as humanity and as society, others are accepted and even praised. For example: There is a big conflict in America about the legislation passing that would legalize same-sex marriage. This is a bad thing that is beginning to happen, that is true. But what about heterosexual sin? The same people who claim that such laws would destroy America fail to acknowledge that the adultery and lust that permeates same-sex couples is just as bad of a problem. We pick and choose the soapboxes we want to stand on, while ignoring our own sin.
What Paul does here is show us that we ALL sin. We ALL have issues that we deal with where we do not practice what we preach.
In Luke, there is the parable of the tax collector and the Pharisee. Basically, they are both praying to God. The Pharisee (proud and standing, mind you) proclaims thanks to God that he is not as bad of a person as the tax collector. The tax collector, on his knees, doesn’t try to justify anything. He just asks God for mercy, because he is a sinner. (Luke 18:9-14, if you want to read more). Jesus then asked: Who do you think God had mercy on?
The problem with running from the bear is this: God doesn’t care how far you are from the bear. We have a Pharisaical mindset that God is happy with us if we aren’t as bad as the people around us, and this just isn’t true! If just running from the bear is your aim, then you have missed the point. God wants us to be broken like the tax collector, and admit our sin. We need to admit that we are hopeless, that we can’t do anything on our own, that we can’t meet God’s standards no matter how much we try. Our relationship with God is a one-on-one, intimate relationship. He doesn’t care if we aren’t as holy as John, or if we don’t tithe as much as Susan. What God cares about is where WE are in our OWN heart with Him. This isn’t to say that we can’t have role models and mentors and such. It just means that our ultimate standard for how we should live should be God Himself, shown to us through Jesus Christ.
And THAT is the hope given to us by God, written down by Paul. We can still run! There is still another path to choose. We don’t need to run from this bear, trying to hold ourselves up under our own effort, to no avail. We can instead fall to our knees and run to the Lamb of God.
Running to the Lamb
Now this is a topic that will come up in future posts, as Paul gets into MUCH detail about the saving grace that is Christ. In Romans 2 and 3, though, we do see him allude to what God does for us. Romans states that we are all under the righteous judgement of God (Romans 2:3, 5, 12, 16….). God is the ultimate Judge, His Word is law. And the law that He gave is one that we cannot possibly keep on our own. But look at what Paul says in verse 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?”.
We take advantage of this love and mercy, but in fact those very attributes of God are meant to bring us into a place where we recognize our need for Him. This is the wonderful thing about God! While His judgement shows no partiality or favoritism, neither does His kindness and forbearance and patience. He is willing and wants to shower those gifts upon anyone and everyone that will receive them. How much more will the Father give good gifts to His children, Jesus asks in the Gospels. God knows full well that we are entangled in the jaws of the bear. Yet, He gives us this hope anyways, due to His nature as a loving Father.
We all know that ever famous verse that lies in Romans 3-that “all have fallen short of the glory of God”.
Take a look, though, at the continuation:
“…and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in His divine forbearance He had passed over former sins” (Romans 3:23-25)
Have we all sinned? Yes. How then, can we be justified?
Not through our own righteousness compared to our neighbors. Not through how far we have managed to come from the bear. But by the righteousness of God alone, displayed in the sacrifice His Son made on the cross.
Next time we gather, we are going to start to look at the road upward.
How exactly can we be made right in the eyes of God if we all sin? How can there be a reconciliation of God and man if we are all sinners, all fallen short?
The answer, of course, is found in Jesus-
but that is for another day.