That's a Clown Question

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Wednesday, March 4, 2015 0 comments

by Logan Ames

Don’t you just love it when someone asks you a question that shouldn’t even be dignified with a response? You know, like those questions that just make you look at someone and shake your head. You might ask, “Seriously?” Or maybe you would say, “I’m not even going to answer that.”

A couple of years ago, Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals was asked a ridiculous question by a reporter and simply responded, “That’s a clown question, bro.” His answer was adopted by a politician the next week and was mentioned in jokes for several months. Well, I’m here to tell you that it fits a particular group of questions that are addressed in this week’s passage in Romans.

First, let me ask, if you could go back and change some things about your life and choices you’ve made, would you? This is not the “clown question”, but for some it may seem like a no-brainer.

Some would immediately list all the things they would change. I do, however, recognize that there are many out there who have the opposite view. They may be able to recognize past mistakes, but they stand firm on the philosophical ground of “everything happens for a reason” and “my mistakes have made me who I am today”. Pop culture has even fed into this mindset with movies such as “The Family Man”, “It’s a Wonderful Life”, and others that illustrate that things happen and people exist for a reason and we shouldn’t try to change it because we might be “messing with fate”. Because the world desperately wants to believe in a power greater than themselves and because Christians believe that God is sovereign over all things, people in both groups play with the idea that everything happens for a reason.

While I’m not here to shoot that theory down, I’ve heard at least one of my co-workers recently take it too far. She said something like, “I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes, but I wouldn’t change them because they have led me to where I am today”. I don’t think she fully understood the ramifications of what she was implying, but it got me thinking about our sins. This week’s passage shows that this line of thinking is nothing new. People in the first century were making an argument, as recorded by Paul in Romans 3:1-8, that they should not be judged for their sins because man’s unrighteousness brings out God’s righteousness more clearly. In other words, they were implying that even their SINS must be all part of God’s plan!

Paul had explained in verses 1-4 that there is an advantage for Jews because they had been given the words of God first through the Scriptures, but also that even their disobedience couldn’t nullify God’s faithfulness. This was the heart of his message that all human beings are justified by faith in the work and grace of God through Jesus Christ and NOTHING MORE. The Jews struggled with this because they were so set in being justified by their own works. To put a hole in his theory, some evidently took it to the extreme. If Paul was saying human works don’t matter, then why shouldn’t we just keep sinning and then stand back and watch how God’s glory is revealed in spite of our actions? As Paul says in verse 7, “Someone might argue, ‘If my falsehood enhances God’s truthfulness and so increases his glory, why am I still condemned as a sinner?’” I assure you that this is where Paul, in a much more elegant, thoughtful, and Hebrew way would have said something like, “These are nothing but clown questions, brethren”. In fact, you can see in the passage that Paul never actually does answer these questions. Of those who would dare to ask such questions, he simply concludes, “Their condemnation is just!” (v. 8)

It’s not that asking questions is a bad thing. It’s a good thing and you can see that Jesus and his disciples did a lot of it in the process of teaching and learning. Going back further, God asked questions of many of the prophets and other Old Testament characters to show them what they were failing to understand about their circumstances. Moses and Job come to mind. But even Moses and Job had to come to a point where they accepted who God was and then all other questions that they had were submitted and freely asked under that knowledge. When we get to a point of questioning God’s judgment, character, and heart as the unknown debaters in Romans did, Paul says it’s not even worth it to respond.

There are reasons why anyone asking those questions of Paul should rethink the questions rather than look for answers. First of all, nothing a mortal human does or doesn’t do can “enhance God’s truthfulness”. That’s like saying I’m going to give 110% during my next workout. It’s not possible to go beyond the maximum. God IS truth. He is fully true in a way that even the most honest man on this planet can’t understand, so there is no way his truthfulness can be enhanced. Secondly, believing that our sins increase his glory would allow us to say that he is responsible for our sins because he created us. While some may choose to believe this, it’s nonsense!

Genesis 1:26-27 clearly states that God created us “in his image and likeness”. God is without sin and we were created to be the same way while still having the ability to love him and find all of our fulfillment in him. The unknown questioners in Romans would have already known this and that is why Paul felt a blunt non-response was necessary.

Are you one who says you wouldn’t change your sins because they made you who you are? That may be a true statement, but that doesn’t mean they were part of God’s good plan for you. I can look back and see how God used even the times that I was disobedient to him, but his greatness doesn’t change the fact that it was still rebellion on my part. That rebellion led to consequences and pain for myself and others. The danger in believing that even our mistakes lead us where God wants us is that we may take them lightly and repeat them. We may begin to think too highly of ourselves and believe that God will take care of us no matter what we do. This is a false guarantee and it is not Biblically-based. God doesn’t need you and I to mess up so he can show up and show off. And we are fooling ourselves if we think sin doesn’t do more damage than good.

Every time. Without exception. Don’t make a mockery of God’s grace. The fact that he watches over you even when you sin and still chooses to set you back on the right path is a tremendous blessing and not something to be taken for granted. His grace gives you the strength and freedom to stop sinning, not a license to keep doing it. Walk away from whatever is holding you back and trust him today.

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