I have Lupus. It’s an autoimmune disease that affects my body and various organ systems in ways that, if I were not under medical care, would cause my body to turn on itself in not-so-fun ways.
I see a doctor (a rheumatologist – such a fancy name!) every three months to have labs taken, meds tweaked, and to get her advice and directives on how to continue to successfully treat Lupus so that I can live a normal, healthy life, just like most of you.
Sometimes, though, I really don’t like what my doctor has to say to me! Things like, “You’re overweight and out of shape, which is causing your body to worker harder. Thus, your inflammation markers are sky high, which is why you are experiencing joint pain. Lose some weight and exercise.”
Or, “The more you continue to ignore your body’s need for rest, the more likely you are going to stress out your nervous system. This is why you have a fever and cannot see out of your eye. Time for you to take a break.”
It’s not like I LIKE having her tell me those things. But in the long run, I’d much rather her speak the TRUTH of the matter so we can address the symptoms and I can get better.
I’d rather endure a few moments of uncomfortable, yet truthful, commentary on her part that have her just look at me and say something easier to say for her and easier for me to swallow like, “Well, things don’t look TOO bad. I’ve seen patients much worse than you so let’s just ignore your symptoms. We’ll just address it if and when it gets life threatening. We’ll just assume you’re all good and going to be fine.” And then send me off with a handshake and a smile.
If we have something wrong with us, we want to know about it, no matter how hard it might be to hear, right? Because once we know the issue, we can make a plan to solve it.
Well, that’s what Paul is doing in this next section of Romans – the one we’re calling “The Wrath of God”. Instead of sugar coating sinful behavior and the human condition of sin, he starts right off with what my grandma always referred to as “calling a spade a spade.” Instead of saying, “well, I guess those crazy humans will just be human”, he reminds us (or maybe even enlightens us for the 1st time…) that God means business when it comes to sin and He even uses a little tough love action on us to get His point across.
I think Paul does this to get the cards out on the table up front – and THEN he uses the remainder of the book to explain the remedy – or cure – for our condition: Jesus.
First, however, Paul wants us to come to terms with one thing – we are all sinners. Every single one of us.
Amen to that.
So, what IS sin?
Anything that separates us from God. It’s human behavior that “keeps the world from working as God intended it to.” (Chuck Swindoll, Insights on Romans).
Sin entered the world with the choices made by Adam and Eve way back in the Garden of Eden and remains here today. Scripture tells us that will continue to be the case until Christ returns.
We pick up this section of Romans with the second half of Chapter 1. Paul spends the remainder of the chapter explaining God’s anger at sin, and he lists a variety of sins, calling them out by name.
My sweet friends, this bit is going to make us uncomfortable on couple levels. First, because we may see ourselves and our own behavior listed here (kind of like me at the rheumatologist). Paul states things here like:
“…every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip…backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy.” Romans 1:29-31, NLT
Ouchie. Paul sure ripped that Band-Aid off quickly.
On a second level, we might feel uncomfortable reading those words because we may see word pictures develop in our brains of people who have wronged us in the past. We need to try really hard right here to resist the urge to jump on what possibly seems like Paul’s finger pointing band wagon (more on why we need to resist that in just a second – I promise. Just push the pause button on the judge-y smudge-y feeling that might be brewing inside!).
As we may have already sort of deduced, judging the behavior and “sins” of others just makes us hypocrites, because we are all flawed. We’re so tempted to do so, though, because of our own insecurities and maybe even a “need to be right” all the time. Pointing out someone else’s mistakes and flaws (and even their sins…) lets us feel a smug sense of righteousness (albeit misplaced). We can get all caught up in “Well, at least I’m not as bad as so-and-so!”
I don’t know about you, but it’s when I feel the worst about myself that I can pull out what might look like my dearest, sweetest platitudes, but they’re really a guise to use against someone else. But just because I can speak it and look like it, it doesn’t mean my inside matches.
THIS is why we need this “Wrath of God” section from Paul. Not to feel condemned or hopeless or bad about ourselves, OR to stand in judgment of others. Instead, we need it to know we are all in that same boat. We are all at the same place. None of us are ahead of the other in God’s favor, regardless the number of Band-Aids we put on our imperfections.
Sometimes we gotta just rip that Band-Aid right off to see the depth and dirt of what’s hiding beneath it. Then, the wound can be tended to, cleaned up, and begin healing before it has a chance to really fester.
So, in pointing out our faults, Paul is really just getting us ready for the grace and mercy and beauty of Christ that HAS come and WILL COME again!
Have faith, sweet friends. Hope is simply right around the corner! Stay tuned for next week’s lesson on that FACT! In the meantime, check out this week’s “homework” and song of the week by clicking RIGHT HERE!!!
Enjoy your weekend!
Peace, love, and JOY!!!
Up Next Week: Are you happy to see me? (The TRUTH of being a prodigal daughter of God.)