Continuing from the previous lesson, let’s continue in Romans 2:
Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?
Romans 2:2-3 NIV
For those who have read the Gospels (the books in the Bible about Jesus’ ministry, named after the authors: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, which are indeed great parts of the Bible to read and re-read), this passage from the book of Romans might sound a lot like Jesus’ teachings in what we call the Sermon on the Mount (specifically, Matthew 7:1-5). In fact, I think that Paul (the author of Romans) is covering the same basic topic, which is what we would expect from an apostle of Jesus, writing under the inspiration of God.
Now, people who don’t like to be judged will sometimes quote “Do not judge” (from Matthew 7:1) out of context, but note that both of these passages (from Romans and Matthew) come with similar context, as they tie inappropriate judgment to our own behavior.
There are not multiple standards for God’s truth. Going back to the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7, especially Matthew 5:21-30), if murder is wrong for someone else, unrighteous anger with our brother is wrong for us. If adultery is wrong for someone else, lust for another woman is wrong for us. When we condemn someone for a sin that we also practice, especially without acknowledging the judgment that we deserve for our actions, there’s a word for that: hypocrisy.
In fact, the very act of judging someone implies that the judge has a standard or authority by which to judge. In a courtroom, a judge has authority to apply the law. When we say that something is morally wrong according to the Bible, we are saying that God’s authority is true. However, if some of the law applies in a courtroom, all of the law applies in the courtroom. If we say that God’s Word is true when it says one behavior is wrong, it must also be true when it says that other behaviors are wrong.
As an alternative, let me describe an example (based – in part – on Matthew 7:1-5). Have you ever helped someone get an eyelash out of their eye? Usually, the afflicted person will ask for some help, or at least ask you to take a look to see what is causing them discomfort. This takes a lot of trust, since the person who is helping may end up poking at the other one’s eyeball!
In this situation, I don’t think that I’ve ever heard someone else judge another person for getting an eyelash in their eye. No one says, “Well, if you had been more careful, you wouldn’t have gotten that eyelash in your eye in the first place.” They don’t say, “You’re so careless, and you probably deserve to just suffer.” Of course we don’t say that. Instead, we help them get better.
Along the same line, I’m pretty sure that if two of us had similar issues with our eyes at the same time – maybe both of us just had a bunch of autumn leaves blow past us, and we’re both struggling to see clearly from the leaf bits in our eyes – we’d agree that neither of us is in any shape to help the other right away.
In the same way, I hope that if we spot a metaphorical speck in the eye of someone’s life this week, we will love them enough to first make sure that our choices are healthy in the same area as they are struggling. Only then can we gently point out what is causing them to suffer, and – when they are ready to let us help them – lovingly work with them to get rid of the problem.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for January 9, 2022
- The Lookout, January 9, 2022, © 2022 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
- The College Press Commentary, Romans, Volume 1, by Jack Cottrell. College Press Publishing Company, © 1996.