In the Epistle to the Romans, Paul begins with some Biblical truth, in order to ground the Roman Church. He includes truths revealed in scripture about God, Himself. Now that Paul has described God’s character to us, he turns to compare it with man’s. What a disappointment humankind must be to our Creator. He gets little glory or appreciation for all that He has done for us! In fact it is quite the opposite. Man, giving in to the folly of pride, started creating his own gods. ”…their foolish hearts were darkened” (:22).
First of all man’s intellect became his god. What he thought, what he believed, what he chose to worship, became of primary importance. Where did that take him? God first gave man over to sinful desires. His thinking was infected with self-righteousness.
Second, God gave them over to shameful lusts, through which any sexual behaviour became appropriate. The heart of man became suspect, as his feelings led his head. This was not the Creator’s intention. He had revealed Himself repeatedly, through acts of mercy, through scripture, through our Lord Jesus Christ. However, Paul writes – “Although they knew God, they neither glorified Him as God nor gave thanks to Him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened” (Romans 1:21).
Third God gave them over to a depraved mind. The mind of mankind, originally created with all the potential of Godly decision-making, became filled with every kind of evil, greed and depravity resulting in a whole list of godless activities (Romans 1:29-31). Today our society, if not condoning these, will excuse murders, insolence, mistreatment of parents, hating God, in a spirit of senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless living. The final line is drawn when they decide to approve of everyone doing such things (Romans 1:32); seen in the freedom of man’s wisdom running loose.
Note that three times Paul says “God gave them over”. Leaving man to decide his own fate, God withdrew. His character did not change. He is always, eternally, a God of love and truth and holiness. However, sin and holiness are like oil and water – they do not mix.
How is the faith community to respond? We are to love our enemies – the person, not the sin. That is very hard to do. Out of fear we want to see these evils corrected. We fear for the salvation of our loved ones, for the infection of sin which is spreading throughout society, pandemically. But we are a community of faith and our faith is put into practice by doing what Jesus would do. What would Jesus do if He walked through North America today, for example?
Is it possible to bridge the gap between right and wrong? No! Jesus already has done that with His life, and death, yet people still reject His remedy for the sickness of sin. The best we can hope for is that His joy and peace, demonstrated in a spirit of love, will create a yearning in hearts darkened by an error that is spreading like wild-fire in our hedonistic society today. We know that God has already gone to the nth degree to correct these evils, but His love is everlasting!
So we pray that the Light will still provide Life, drawing men and women out of the pit they are digging for themselves. Let us all remember at the dawn of a New Year, that positive change always begins with “me”. Furthermore, I am the only person over whom I can really have any control. With God the Holy Spirit’s help I can exercise that required control which will temper my mind and heart, and my reactions to things others do to irk me.
Which is the greatest sin of our day? Is one worse than another? Do we not all continue to sin in small ways or large? How dangerous is prejudice? Is this why Jesus commanded us not to judge others?
The Psalmist prayed that God would search his heart (Psalm 139:23).
Let us pray: “Create in me a new heart, O God and renew a steadfast spirit in me. Do not cast me away from Your presence, or take Your Holy Spirit from me, Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, and grant a willing spirit to sustain me.” Amen (Psalm 51:10-12).
by Marilyn Daniels