It’s true, you know, the world does, indeed, hate God because my religion. Earlier we spoke of the “bad guys” who pushed the truth away and with it God, himself, but Paul poses the question: “…am I any better?” According to the Scriptures I am just as guilty as anyone else. You are, too, whoever is reading this. There is no escaping the fact that we all have something to hide. We all have those dirty closets we like to keep locked, so no one sees what is in them.
It is pretty easy, isn’t it, to see sins in others, but often it is all too difficult to see what is happening in our own lives as far as morality is concerned. And, this is what Paul was trying to point out in Romans chapter 2. It is easy for us to recognize the hatred of the “bad guys”, but are we able to visualize what the Lord sees in our own hearts? Sadly, good “moral people,” don’t always see their own faults. Isn’t it a lot easier for us to see our own goodness than it is to see the same in those who commit obvious sins? The problem is, however, it is such comparisons as this that blinds us to what the word of God is saying, namely, moral people often do the very same things they see in and judge others for doing.
Paul wrote these things to the Jewish and Gentile Christians at Rome, knowing full well that he was one of those good and moral people before he met Jesus. His heavenly vision on the way to Damascus brought on a sudden awakening to the fact that morality didn’t show him who Jesus was. He had very specific ideas about the people who didn’t measure up to his standard, often persecuting them. And, that’s the point, isn’t it? We all have standards against which we measure others, and that is why we appear so good in our own eyes. Well, as I said, this didn’t help Paul at all. He found out in a hurry what his real standing was before God, and suddenly he was no longer blameless, as he had supposed.
Friends, the only way we are able have an accurate understanding of our hearts is to come into the presence of Jesus. Letting him confront my sins—not Joe’s or Andy’s, Mary’s or Lucy’s, but my sins, is a humbling experience, one in which I find myself unable to judge others. When my standard is Jesus, no one makes the grade But, as long as I compare myself with other people I know or read about, I can make myself out to be a pretty decent guy, but in the presence of Jesus, this smoke screen just fades away. In Jesus’ presence my secret life is laid bare, and all my bragging rights are gone. It is just him and me—alone.
I may be able to fool a lot of people into thinking I’m really a nice guy, but God knows it all. He has seen everything. Nothing is hidden from him, and I am judged a sinner. Paul knew, didn’t he? We all know the story of how he persecuted the church, believing he was serving God. He was blameless as far as the Law was concerned, but guilty in the presence of Jesus. He knew it too. The “bad guys” need Jesus; the good “moral guys” need Jesus and even the religious elite, like Paul, need Jesus. Oh, how we need Jesus!
You can read all about it in Romans 2:17 and following. Paul is speaking of the Jews here, but it doesn’t take a Biblical scholar to understand that we must include ourselves in Paul’s account of the religious people of his day. They prayed, fasted, tithed and read and studied the Scriptures often—just like we do. They were religious and devoted to God, never questioning their standing before him, but they too fell under the judgment of God. Why? What had gone wrong?
Religious people have a tendency to become proud in knowing God’s truth, and this pride leads to hypocrisy. We all know that hypocrisy means we are saying one thing but doing another.
The history of the Christian church is not always pretty. The fact is that in the name of Jesus the leaders of the Christian church taught and inspired violence against those who didn’t believe in Jesus. In this, we have dishonored God (Romans 2:23), and not only so, but ultimately have caused those who don’t believe to hate God (Romans 2:24). Now, please remember, that in my first blog in this series, I mentioned that Christianity is a religion, but it is also more than a religion. It is when we don’t pay attention to the “more” part that we fail God, and no one is perfectly faithful in this. Often we place our religion before our personal commitment to Jesus. My religious manner often leads to self-righteousness. Pointing at the sins and failings of unbelievers shows I am failing to be kind, honest, humble, loving and, in short, failing to present the love of Christ (the Gospel) to a dying world. When I prefer to blame others for their sins and excuse myself for doing the same things, I am just not being honest. Yet, God sees it all, and the unbeliever has also noticed it too. He knows I am not batting 1000. Therefore, I have caused him to believe God is unjust, cruel, hateful and, in short, a hypocrite himself, because God loves me but not him—knowing there is no difference between the unbeliever and me.
Who’s fooling who, really? While a case may be made that the enemy has blinded the world to the truth, are we honestly able to conclude that we have helped the world to see the light of the Gospel by judging them but hiding our own sins? The Christian’s religion stands exposed in Paul’s second chapter of Romans, just as Fritz Ridenour points out in his book: “How to be a Christian Without Being Religious,” which we are going through in this blog. God doesn’t grade on a curve, friends. We can’t get a passing grade by being good. The fact is, the only way any of us will ever reach or find God is through a relationship with Jesus, our Savior. Think about it!