“They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too.”
Romans 1:32 NLT
Paul continues his rant with the observation that there are wicked people, those who think it foolishness to acknowledge God, who behave in a way that deserves the death sentence. But, inexplicably, they are not deterred by that. They just don’t care. And they draw in other people, encouraging them too to commit sinful acts. In Paul’s day there were a number of offences that invoked the death sentence, but Paul wasn’t talking about those sorts of offences. He was referring to wicked people committing crimes against God, with all their sins and wickedness as listed in the previous few verses.
What is there about human beings, that, when faced with a moral dilemma, they make the wrong choice? There seems to be something within our thinking that makes us prefer the sinful way over the right way. The Apostle Paul himself wasn’t immune from such behaviour. In Romans 7:21-24, he wrote, “I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. I love God’s law with all my heart. But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death?” We will look at the remedy to Paul’s anguished state in a few weeks time.
There is something about sin, that attracts us and presents itself as a harmless act or state, one we rationalise away with thoughts that it doesn’t really matter, not just this once. I know I’ve mentioned this before, but the enemy, our adversary the devil, is a genius at packaging sin in a way that makes it seems palatable. Eve, back in the garden of Eden, experienced the subtle nuances introduced by the devil. We read in Genesis 3:1, “The serpent was the shrewdest of all the wild animals the Lord God had made. One day he asked the woman, “Did God really say you must not eat the fruit from any of the trees in the garden?”” And Adam and Eve’s response to that seemingly innocent question has reverberated down the ages ever since.As another example, I suffer from type 2 diabetes, which I manage to control with diet. But I know that a cake or even a piece of fruit can often throw my carefully managed diet and result in elevated blood glucose readings. But imagine my dilemma. Toffee donut sitting on the plate. Or some scones with cream and jam, freshly and deliciously made by the lady across the road. Something within me is screaming that just this once, it won’t matter. And so I …. A trivial example I know but it hopefully illustrates the temptations and propensity to make wrong decisions that we all experience.
There is a penalty for sin. Intuitively, we know what the penalty is, but, somehow, it doesn’t stop sinful behaviour. Even in those who do acknowledge God. Paul wrote about the consequences of sin later in the Book of Romans, but here’s a spoiler – “For the wages of sin is death, …” (Romans 6:23a).
So what do we pilgrims do? We see the activities of the wicked around us, and we may tut and wring our hands, but in the knowledge that sin is sin. There is no grading system. So those who commit genocide, and those who steal a pencil from their employer, are both guilty when they stand before God. Jesus taught about getting our own lives right before we act in judgement of others. We read in Matthew 7:3-5, ““And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye”. So we get before God in repentance, keeping short accounts with our Heavenly Dad, and pray for those who fall into the “wicked” category around us. And we continue to pray that we will have an opportunity to share the Good News with them, praying that they will not inevitably end up dying in their sins.
Dear Father God. You know our propensity to sin, but Your remedy through Jesus is more than powerful enough to bring redemption and holiness. How grateful are! Amen.