Ever so often, when we consider the judgment of the Lord, the very judgment we consider is anger, wrath, turmoil. We look to the Scriptures of old and see Sodom and Gomorrah having fire rained upon it, we see the entire world being flooded, we see all of these “end of the world” types of judgment being cast upon the world, and we seem to fail to recognize that there is a type of judgment that is even worse than all of these combined. See, sometimes the Lord punishes us by making His presence abundantly known, but the harsher punishment is His absence. And that’s the warning that Paul is giving us in this passage. We see it multiple times in the Scripture. In reference to King Saul, we read that “the Spirit of the Lord had departed from Saul.” (1 Kingdoms 16:14). In the prophet Ezekiel, we read that “the glory of the Lord departed form the house and went upon the cherubim.” (Ezekiel 10:17). See, the Lord sometimes will turn an entire nation over to it’s enemies, sometimes He will just lay to waste an entire peoples, but sometimes, He will just leave.
The latter of these warnings is the warning that we see here from the humble apostle. The city of Rome, so in love with it’s sin, and Paul warning the Church against that very fact. And yet, look at how the apostle does it. Not merely that the Romans had fallen victim to sin, as though it were some sort of trap set by the enemy, nor that they had been attacked, as though by some foreign enemy come to lay waste to their very souls, but rather, that they not only accepted, but actually burned in their very hearts for it. And, so that ignorance of the will of the Lord could be claimed as excuse, he rather states that they not only disobeyed the laws of the Lord, but that they had disobeyed the very laws of nature. This vile corruption of God’s plan for creation not only was an assault on the plans of God, but it was an assault on the very laws of nature. Even those who had no knowledge of the ways of the Lord would recognize the natural order of things, and yet, they still disobeyed. What’s more, for those who did understand the laws of the Lord, this was even worse. To affirm these actions was to deny the very order of creation, wherein it is written, “for this reason, a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.” (Genesis 2:24). But the Romans, worshiping the flesh, refused to heed the command of the Lord to deny themselves, even though the very nature of these acts was against all forms of nature as well as against God Himself.
So often, we do the same thing, though not necessarily in the same way. In the name of the “grace of the Lord” we place our own earthly wants and desires ahead of the commands of the Lord. We determine that whatever “feels good” must be right, and no one can tell us otherwise. Even worse than this, we search the Scripture and pick and choose, “cherry pick,” which commands we believe to be relevant and which aren’t “that big of a deal.” As it is the topic of the passage at hand, consider the Biblical defintion of “sexual immorality.” Sexual immorality (pornos, as is so often translated “sexually immoral,” literally means a man who indulges in unlawful sexual intercourse) is any sexual conduct which occurs outside of the convenant relationship of marriage. By that standard; affairs, homosexuality, premarital sex; any sexual relations between two people who are not married is sin. Jesus further advances this charge when He states that “whoever divorces his wife for any reason except for sexual immorality causes her to commit adultery; and whoever marries a woman who is divorced commits adultery.” (Matthew 5:32). Further, He goes on to tell us that “whoever looks after a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28). Consider these passages in relation to your own life, as they are truly in the Scripture. Now, consider this in relation to some of the “hot topics” in evangelical Christianity.
See, I’m not trying to discourage anyone. To the contrary, I am doing the exact opposite here. I want everyone to be fully aware of what the Scripture states concerning sexual immorality. And the reason for this is that I want everyone to recognize one thing, same sex marriage wasn’t the end of traditional marriage and morals in America. It’s so easy to use that as a scapegoat, but the reality is that Biblical marriage in America (as the evangelicals love to refer to “traditional marriage as) died generations ago. And it didn’t die in the name of the sexual revolution, or in the name of same sex marriage, it died because we got so focused on what other people were doing in America that we didn’t pay attention to our own walk of holiness. It died because we decided that what we liked was right and what we didn’t like was wrong. Premarital sex became “not a big deal” because we liked it, and divorce became “not a big deal” because we liked it. Those things didn’t die because same sex couples wanted to get married, those things died well before that. Those things died because instead of focusing on our own personal holiness in the Church, we decided to focus on the things that were happening outside of the Church. Those things happened because we began to judge the world based on the Scriptures, while excusing our own behavior in the “name of the grace of God.” And, my brothers and sisters, we have GOT to stop. We look at the world and compare ourselves to the world and determine that our behavior isn’t “that bad,” and do so hypocritically. We become the divorced porn addict telling the same sex couple that they are the reason that marriage has become a mockery. We become the wife cheating on her husband judging the prostitute for being promiscious. We become the Pharisees standing before the adulteress ready to throw stones at her, while Jesus sits next to her saying, “I do not condemn you, now go, and sin no more.” forgetting that “so were some of you, but you were cleansed, you were sanctified, justified.” (1 Corinthians 6:11). If we focus more on our own walk of faith, to the degree that Jesus commands us to, then we wouldn’t have time to judge the rest of the world. We would be able to approach the world with the philosophy of the beloved apostle, who states, “for what have I to judge those outside the Church, is it not those within who we are to judge? Those who are outside, God judges.” (1 Corinthians 5:12).
See, we followers of Christ, we believers, we know the commands of the Lord. And we can never fall from them. We must adhere to “every jit and toddle” of the words of the Lord. But, when we focus on those commands, on walking with Him in holiness, we won’t be concerned with judging those who are not of the faith. Should we be concerned about their well being? Of course, we must love our neighbor, and therefore be concerned about their well being. But, knowing that no deeds that a person can commit on their own can make them righteous before God, our concern must not be on their weaknesses, but on the One who can rescue them from their iniquity. The Lord commands us to love our neighbor, not condemn him. We must seek those moments wherein we can find the opportunity to display the grace, the mercy, the compassion, that the Lord has shown to us. On any street corner in America, you can find someone in need. Regardless of their situations, what situation did the Lord rescue you out of? Now, ask yourself, when you see that child of God, that man made in the image of God, what is your first reaction? Do you desire to help them, or do you consider the circumstances that brought them to the point that they are at? Do you give them the aid that they are seeking, or do you immediately judge them based on the fact that they need it?
Sometimes, the Lord punishes entire nations by burning them with fire from the sky, as He did with Sodom and Gomorrah. Sometimes, the Lord hands nations over to their enemies, as He did with the Chaldeans. But, for those who place the most distance between themselves and Him, oftentimes He will just leave them. He will leave them to wallow in their own desires. And that is Paul’s warning to the Roman Church here, and to us as well. Sin is anything that separates us from the love of God, and one of the greatest sins that He warns us against is hypocrisy. How much time do we spend focusing on the sins of the world, and how much time do we spend focusing on our own personal sins against the Lord? How often do we pray, “thank you God that I am not like…” versus how much time we spend saying, “Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me, a sinner.”
I would warn each of us; a question, how often do we feel called to deny ourselves; how often do we feel called to this personal holiness? Now consider, how often do we feel as though we can continue doing whatever “feels right?” And then I’d ask, which voice do we heed? It’s so easy and tempting to find verses that will allow us to continue in what “feels right” versus what we know the Scriptures so plainly say. It’s so easy to cry forgiveness in a theology that screams eternal salvation, regardless of our actions. But, Paul’s warning here is very clear. God’s punishment is sometimes leaving us to make our own choices, and reaping the consequences of whatever we happen to choose. When you hear that you can do whatever you want, but without the glory of the Lord in your life, what is your decision? I pray that it is the same as Moses, “Lord, if You Yourself do not go with us, do not bring us up from here.” (Exodus 33:15).
May the grace of the Lord be with you, my brothers and sisters.