All Lions Do It

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Saturday, February 14, 2015 0 comments

by Nathan Buck

We are all human – right? We all have failings, we all get dissatisfied, we all put on the duck costume now and then and play around with what our life would be like if we weren’t us. We also do it in regard to what we believe, and how we live. Come on, admit it. We all know our life falls short of what we say we believe. We even consider ways to excuse our shortcomings, explaining why ultimately we are ok, and “its all good.”

Interesting how that changes when we look at someone else’s shortcomings, when we look at someone else’s rebellion?

So, here in Romans 2:1-10, Paul is building to his next thing for us to consider. And he gets there by helping us take a minute to reflect on the fact that none of us are perfect. It’s important for us to humbly reflect on that truth, or we will miss some key relationship lessons that get broken when we excuse our rebellion and condemn others.

When we are in rebellion, we will give approval to other people’s rebellion to serve our own validation in rebellion. But when someone else’s rebellion threatens to expose our masquerade, or our struggle against the masquerade, we will put all our effort into exposing their shame to keep eyes off of us. Whether in rebellion or not, we like to preserve our image. Paul just strips that away, by reminding us that all lions put on the duck costume at some point or another. (If you don’t know what this is referring to, please read this post.)

Here is the back story. The Jews are God’s chosen people, and God chose to reveal His promise of rescuing humanity from our rebellion against Him, through them. He established their culture, their festivals, and their life rhythms all to tell a story. And over time, that story became clearer and clearer as the pieces he set in motion through the Jews began to connect with more and more pieces of what He was doing through history. Until finally, God sent Jesus (His son, God in human existence) to live, teach, and die on the cross as the sacrifice for all separation and rebellion against God. Jesus’ sacrifice was for all time, past, present, and future, and it offers us restored relationship with God. Because of Jesus, we are able to live fully in relationship with God, and fully live out His design for our lives.

When Paul is writing here in Romans 2, he is not only reminding all of us to have compassion for one another and not judge each other harshly, but he is also reminding the Jews that they don’t get a free pass just because they are Jews. When he says, “first for the Jew, and then for the gentile,” the Greek word for “first” can also be translated as “most importantly.” That makes sense in this context given how God set things up. “Most importantly” for the Jew to demonstrate what a life with God looks like, because they have the history and the teaching, and should be able to set the example for the newbie gentiles.

Whenever we think we have arrived at a place where we are better than someone else, just because our life doesn’t look as messy as theirs, we should take serious caution. From God’s perspective, the pressure is on at that point for us to set the example, and perhaps even help them with a compassionate hand. Every follower of Christ, to some extent, knows what it is like to shed the masquerade and start to live with integrity. It is hard, and those early days of trying to understand how to do that require a lot of support. Why wouldn’t we have compassion on those who are just waking back up to reality? And why not compassion even for those who are still living in the illusion and denial and rebellion?

Ultimately to condemn others, and to point out their rebellion as worse than your own, is to again reject God. Notice God does not condemn; he “hands them over.” God lets us experience the consequences of rebellion, perhaps to wake us up and to help us turn back, shake off the duck costume and reclaim our identity. Along with that, Paul reveals something about God’s wrath and penalties as it applies to all of us.

Notice in verse 5 Paul says, “You are storing up wrath/penalty for yourselves, on the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God.” Who is causing wrath to be applied to people? Who is storing it up? Isn’t that curious; it’s not God pouring it out, or zapping us, but rather us gathering it up for ourselves in our rebellion.

Will there be a day of judgment? Yes. This is a season of grace, and we are expected – if we are followers of Jesus – to be examples of that grace to others. It doesn’t mean we validate or condone their behavior; we don’t accept the duck costume, that’s not grace. To validate and accept the duck is to endorse the wrath that rebellious activity is gathering. If we condemn the person pretending to be a duck, we store up wrath for ourselves. (That is why we are reminded elsewhere to “speak the truth in love.”)

Let’s take a moment for a heart check before next week:
- How are you doing with that compassion and grace thing for others?
- How does it change your perspective to know God doesn’t assign wrath or penalty to us, but we gather it for ourselves with our choices?
- How might this change your relationships with others?