Friday, August 29, 2014

Rambling through Romans (9): 1:19-32

“19 This is because what is known about God should be plain to them because God made it plain to them. 20 Ever since the creation of the world, God’s invisible qualities—God’s eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, because they are understood through the things God has made. So humans are without excuse. 21 Although they knew God, they didn’t honor God as God or thank him. Instead, their reasoning became pointless, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 While they were claiming to be wise, they made fools of themselves. 23 They exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images that look like mortal humans: birds, animals, and reptiles. 24 So God abandoned them to their hearts’ desires, which led to the moral corruption of degrading their own bodies with each other. 25 They traded God’s truth for a lie, and they worshipped and served the creation instead of the creator, who is blessed forever. Amen.

26 That’s why God abandoned them to degrading lust. Their females traded natural sexual relations for unnatural sexual relations. 27 Also, in the same way, the males traded natural sexual relations with females, and burned with lust for each other. Males performed shameful actions with males, and they were paid back with the penalty they deserved for their mistake in their own bodies. 28 Since they didn’t think it was worthwhile to acknowledge God, God abandoned them to a defective mind to do inappropriate things. 29 So they were filled with all injustice, wicked behavior, greed, and evil behavior. They are full of jealousy, murder, fighting, deception, and malice. They are gossips, 30 they slander people, and they hate God. They are rude and proud, and they brag. They invent ways to be evil, and they are disobedient to their parents. 31 They are without understanding, disloyal, without affection, and without mercy. 32 Though they know God’s decision that those who persist in such practices deserve death, they not only keep doing these things but also approve others who practice them.”

Paul details the human condition apart from and against God in unforgettable ways here.  And it all flows from our sinful “silencing” of the truth with “injustice” (1:18).

We are no longer able to see God in the “Book of Nature” (though signs of his presence abound).  We are culpable for this ignorance.  Our minds are so clouded and shrouded with our folly and godlike pretensions that we can no longer honor God or be grateful.

As godlike as we imagined ourselves to be, we are still creatures.  Still created to worship.  Only now our worship is perverted – we turn to creatures and imagine the deities.  These days we don’t worship the animal world.  No we’re more sophisticated than that!  We worship ideas, causes, movements – democracy, free enterprise, the Market, winning, success.  But we do worship!  And corrupted worship corrupts the whole of our lives and our humanity are distorted and perverted. (I’m not talking about homosexuality here; just the fact of distorted sexuality Paul uses here as his most vivid example of our disordered lives.  And there’s plenty of that around.  You can make up your own minds about exactly what Paul had in mind here!)

So, and here’s the tragic punch line, God gave us what we wanted!  Divine judgment here involves God simply letting us go, heart-breaking parental tough love.  Letting us “hit bottom” (to use recovery language).  If we want to live a lie and worship the creation (with ourselves at its center), so be it.  God allows it.

God let us go to our twisted minds and we pay the price in our bodies – false commitments and twisted values always have whole life consequences (v.27)!  Standing against God finally eventuates in standing against humanity (v.30).  No matter how grand our humanisms, they all lead in an antihuman, inhuman direction!  Though we know at some level we are courting our own destruction, we plunge headlong into the abyss anyway. 

And God lets us go! 

This is how it stands with Gentile humanity in rebellion against God.  But not them only!  Paul has set up here a powerful rhetorical trap they he about to spring.  But more on that next time!

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