I have a friend, and I say that with all sincerity behind my statement, that continually denies my invitation when I ask him to come and attend church with me. Is he against all churches and religion in general? I don’t think so. Possibly. He explains to me that he isn’t against the spiritual side of life; it’s only my church he holds a grudge toward.
You see, back twenty or so years ago he had a bad experience in our church. Someone said or did something that went against the grain and hurt his feelings in the process. Never mind that the person he mentions died many years ago, and the church membership as a whole is almost totally different today from what it was back then. I did not attend the church at that time myself, so I haven’t a clue as to what he is talking about when he brings up the incident.
There are others that feel that way, not only in my church community but in other churches as well. I’ll bet you’ve met a few on your own somewhere down the line. “I won’t go to that church because ‘ol so-in-so is a deacon and I saw him down at the casino over-tipping a scantily-clad cocktail waitress.” Or “Miss (fill in the blank) is a Sunday School teacher and Lord knows how she has lived her life in sin and shame.” The people that attend church are not always pure. Sometimes they may set a bad example for the rest of us. Sometimes they need to get right with G_d in their own right. Occasionally my friend may even have a valid point. But there are other churches he could attend, no?
In Romans chapter 2, Paul turns from the sins of the Gentiles and the way they attempt to ignore G_d, and points his fingers at a completely different class of sinners. These are the ones that attempt to distract G_d by pointing out the faults in others. In so doing they attempt to validate their sin before G_d, but they cannot escape the fact that we are all bound by sin. We’re all in this together.
“Therefore thou art inexcusable, O man, whosoever thou art that judgest: for wherein thou judgest another, thou condemnest thyself; for thou that judgest doest the same things. But we are sure that the judgment of G_d is according to truth against them which commit such things. And thinkest thou this, O man, that judgest them which do such things, and doest the same, that thou shalt escape the judgment of G_d?”
As a Christian, I find myself guilty of committing the same acts from time to time. Nothing makes me feel better than to see someone else that is worse than me – in my own eyes. I’ll confess I used to watch Jerry Springer. I could sit in my chair for hours and pass judgment on all of his guests, sentencing them to hell for their wicked lifestyles. If G_d loves them, then He must simply swoon when He looks upon me, because I am a very good person! I go to church regularly and have done so for all of my life. I lead the singing and I teach Sunday School. I fix the lights and assorted electrical problems when called upon. Surely G_d is blessed to have me in His Kingdom!
There is a problem with that method of thinking. In my heart I know I am not a perfect specimen of all that a Christian should be. I’m destined to sin, even in my post-salvation life. Too often I've allowed pride to enter my heart. I do not love others as I should. I hold grudges. I say the wrong things when I’m angry. If it was not for G_d’s Amazing Grace, who knows where I would be today?
Probably on the Springer show.
We cannot simply disregard G_d, and by ignoring Him expect to find a way to heaven elsewhere. But we also cannot distract G_d by pointing out the failures and misgivings of others, all the while thinking that in so doing G_d will grant us a free pass from His coming judgment. In the next verse Paul reminds us that it is the ‘goodness’ of G_d that leads us to Salvation. I’ve noticed that he didn’t say it was the ‘goodness of Shannon’ that provided my Salvation.
When I compare my life and the things I have done to the example set for me by His Son, I pale in comparison. That alone should be enough to keep me from pointing my finger of blame at someone else.