I was reading in Romans the other day and was struck anew by the opening lines of the second chapter:
“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” (2:1).
Those who have read Romans are familiar with the first chapter, particularly the portion beginning in verse 18 which speaks of the wrath of God for the grievous sins of mankind. This section contains verses which are usually the first ponies trotted out in the arguments against a homosexual lifestyle (see 1:26-27). While it seems likely that this is what Paul was writing about when he spoke of ‘unnatural relations’ there is a more definite word he could have chosen which he uses is 1 Corinthians 6:9 & 1 Timothy 1:10. But I digress slightly.
My point is that far too many read this portion of Romans 1 with this extremely limited view, seeing homosexuality as the main focus. It’s not. To find the main point of this section, you need to expand your view beyond one sin and consider them all. Romans 1:18 is clear that “the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth” (my emphasis). God’s problem is not one particular sin, but SIN- the “ungodliness and unrighteousness” present in the hearts of ALL people.
If we were forced to identify one sin which stood out as the most heinous, a deeper reading of the chapter leads to the only conclusion- idolatry. Verses 19-23 are evidence that mankind abandoned the plain knowledge of its Creator for worship of the creation. The invective against same-sex relations must be read in light of this, for all sexual sin is a form of, some might say the highest form of, idolatry; worship of the self. This self focused idolatry is not however limited to sexual sin, as in verses 28-31, Paul lays out a sweeping condemnation of all mankind for sins ranging from envy to pride to deceit and, for good measure, is keen to point out that it is not only practitioners of these deeds who are guilty, but those who whether by their assent or their silence, allow them to continue. And since “none is righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10; Psalm 14:1-3), there exists not one man, woman or child who can wriggle their way off this list!
So then, by what right do we condemn others for their sin?
Please do not misunderstand me here, I am not excusing sin nor do I intend to minimize its destructive force. I am simply asking, if we cannot avoid facing ourselves in the list of 1:28-31, by what right do we take the role of judge and jury upon ourselves? Isn’t that exactly what Paul is stating in 2:1-3? Yes it is! Beware O Christian, the self righteous attitude which uses portions of God’s Word, such as Romans 1:26-27 to condemn the ‘sinner’, when we ourselves are classed along with them.
Now, though, we are presented with the great news that through the mercy of God, Jesus Christ was given to be the sinner’s substitute and that through faith in His death and resurrection I stand before Him, no longer condemned but acquitted. No longer am I under wrath for the ungodliness and unrighteousness of mankind, but live with the reality of forgiveness.
But this new standing before God does not confer upon me some divine right to sit in judgment on my fellow men; that is the province of the Lord alone. I certainly am called to speak about sin, but ever and always it is to point to its universal stranglehold on humanity and the freedom offered to all in Jesus Christ. My calling is to preach His redemptive gift and to teach those who have been redeemed how to live a life under the leading of the grace of Jesus and the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, you “who were dead in your trespasses” but now whom “God [has] made alive…having forgiven [you] all [your] trespasses” (Colossians 2:13), no longer seek a false right to condemn others, but take hold of the calling of God to proclaim to all that “there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death” (Romans 8:1-2)
May you find blessing in the grace and peace of the Lord Jesus, may He ever be praised!