Romans

Day 3: Who Can Judge?

Romans 2:1-16, Deuteronomy 16:18-20, Titus 1:15

Children can get easily frustrated.

When something they try goes poorly, even if they haven’t been at it very long, they can get very frustrated. The other day I saw it happen. A kid was shooting baskets. The first shot was bad, and he got mad instead of shooting again. Maybe you know a child who loses it when he drops something, or who sits down with math homework and is beside herself with frustration in 30 seconds or less. Kids’ sensitivities run deep. One day this may serve them well, but in the moment it can be maddening.

My kids struggle with this, but they come by it naturally. When I am tired after a long day at work, I tend to do the same thing. The slightest thing can cause me to spiral into being quite a grumpy dad. Spilled coffee grounds. Not being able to watch a baseball game. Running out of bacon.

When I get frustrated with my kids’ behavior, it is a condemnation of my own behavior.

I thought about this when reading Romans 2. Paul is trying to get religious people, or at least people prone to judging other’s behavior, to see that when you are critical of others, you set yourself up for condemnation. Whether you do this with laws everyone agrees on or the Law of God, you are really pronouncing a guilty sentence on yourself. Why? Because we’re guilty of doing the things we condemn others for.

But Paul doesn’t merely want his readers to feel guilty; he wants them own it, to know it. He wants them to buy into the idea that we all suffer from the same human condition. We are all guilty before God. We all deserve His judgment. The problem is, this is so hard to get people to see. So Paul uses their own moral compass against them. Paul’s goal, of course, is not just to make sure we know our own guilt. He wants us to trace the line from guilt, to need, and then on to the good news of what God has done in Christ.

When I see bad behavior in one of my kids, I acknowledge that behavior is wrong and I tell them they need to stop. But because I do the same, I am also judging myself and revealing my own need. I need to experience the mercy and grace of the cross afresh, just as Paul’s original audience may have needed to experience it for the first time.

We must acknowledge our incessant need for Jesus. And when I do this—when you do this—we can know God’s kindness that leads us to repentance (Romans 2:4).

Written by Matthew B. Redmond