Judging, Kindness, and Repentance

September 27, 2010

by Darin Brink

“Do you not know that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?”
– Romans 2:4

Have you ever noticed the strange and abrupt transition from Romans chapter one to Romans chapter two? Paul has first told his readers that the gospel is the greatest news ever because it is the very power of God to save anyone at all that trusts in Christ. He then describes in some detail the sinfulness of people who live apart from God. They do not acknowledge God. They are filled with envy, murder, strife and deceit. Ultimately, Paul concludes, they are senseless, faithless, heartless, and ruthless.

We are tracking with Paul. Clearly he has met our Boss. So in the next section we expect Paul to similarly describe our next-door neighbor when Paul says unexpectedly: “Therefore you have no excuse.” What is going on here? Why is he talking about me? I thought we were talking about sinners. But I’m a basically moral person. When the Apostle Paul talks about God’s righteous wrath against “gossips, slanderers, haters of God, the insolent, the haughty and the boastful” etc. (Romans 1:30) we understand that those people have got it coming to them. But when Paul turns his attention to the “basically decent people” in chapters 2 and 3 of Romans and says they have got it coming to them as well we are surprised if not skeptical.

So what is the evidence that I, a basically decent person, need to repent and that I am in the same boat as the “flagrant sinner” of Romans 1? Paul’s answer is concise: “You have no excuse if you judge.” Judgmentalism.

Do we know it when we see it? Yes and no. I know it when I see it in others but do I recognize it when I do it myself? Paul makes it clear that by being judgmental we are employing our own standards to condemn. In doing so we fatally minimize God’s own standards, and thus, His glory and we also (falsely) justify ourselves (see also John 7:24; Luke 12:48; James 2:10-13). This is why judgmentalism is so dangerous and those who judge others show that they are deserving of God’s wrath.

Of course the Bible tells us that we need to be able to make sound judgments. Paul tells us to “test everything and hold on to the good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21) so we need to be able to discern and act appropriately. But in my own life I discern and act appropriately far too little and I judge people far too often. How often do I smirk? How often do I smile when a politician is caught in a scandal? True love does not rejoice at evil. How often do I roll my eyes at the gambling or the tax evasion of a neighbor or a co-worker? Christ’s eyes don’t roll. They weep. But my eyes don’t weep because I am not thinking of the glory of God that is being trampled and I don’t think of the eternal fate of those who practice such things. I am thinking “Why can’t they get their act together?” or “I am so glad that’s not me.” I am guilty of judging by human standards and of justifying my own behavior. And when I do that I show that I am neither concerned for my neighbor’s welfare nor concerned with the glory of Christ. Is it any wonder that Paul’s words condemn me? I fail to see that I am no better and I show contempt for the kindness, the tolerance, and the patience of God that is being shown to my neighbor and that is being shown to me.

But there is still hope for me and for you because Paul reminds us that God’s kindness has a goal; it is meant to lead us to repentance. And God is very patient.

Ask yourself as I must ask myself daily, am I rolling my eyes when I see sin or are my eyes filling with tears? Am I being discerning with a goal of reconciling all people and all things to Christ or am I being snide? Do I really want to see my neighbor brought to Christ or do I just like judging him? And will I personally follow the mercy, the kindness, and the patience of God back to their source? Will I see the hand of Christ in the good that He gives me? Will it lead me to repent?

May God grant us all to turn daily back to Him.

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