Let me be straightforward here; this morning I am trying to work out the word I am bringing to my church. It's not an easy word but one we have to hear. We have two many "types" of Christians walking around saying too many different things, shaping the Word of God according to how they want to be able to live. Too many of us can't handle the conviction of the Word and Spirit we find in a book like Romans and instead hide out in the comfort of the psalms. We want to be in the gentle and warm embrace of Jesus while ignoring the direct assault upon our sin that we find in Jesus' words. We want to sing the song of grace without facing the fact of why God needed to show us grace in the first place. We need to look in that mirror.
The reason I say we need to do this is because we forget where we have come from and we haven't a clue where we are going. We have forgotten just how incredible God's grace is and having forgotten where we have come from and having forgotten the reason for God's grace, we have forgotten why it is important to show that grace to others. We are a bunch of Pharisees, living in privilege and condemning those without it. We judge a world enslaved by sin for living by sin, forgetting that we are the ones with the key to help set them free from their prison.
Do you remember the parable that Jesus told of the servant who had received mercy but refused to show mercy? You can read it for yourself in Matthew 18 starting at verse 23, but I will give you the short version. A king was settling accounts and found a man who owed him millions of dollars. Seeing that the man could not pay, the king was about to put him and his whole family in prison but the man begged for mercy. The king canceled his debt but then the man went out and found a friend who owed him $10 and had him thrown in jail because he couldn't pay him back. The king heard about it and canceled the canceled debt and threw the man in jail as well. This is how we often act; we forget what was done for us as we fail to show mercy and grace to others.
So let's remember what was done for us.
In Romans 1 we discover that God considers that everyone is without excuse. Even if people have not read the Word God has revealed himself and his glory in everything around us. There are things we do that we know are wrong without having to be told (v. 24). Every culture condemns those who steal, murder and lie. It is amazing to see how certain values are the same across various cultures and societies. God is all around us and can be seen by those who bother to look, So we are without excuse.
God does not force himself on anyone. We wanted sin so he left us to ourselves. It is like our children as they get closer to adult hood. We are there to encourage them, counsel them, guide them but if they choose to reject what we have to say and choose their own path, we are going to leave them to it, to learn from their mistakes. We hurt for them, for what we know the outcome will be, but they are responsible for their own decisions and actions. This is what it means as we read:
Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. (Romans 1:24-25)
"He gave them over"; he let us decide for ourselves. He is talking about us here. This is where we have come from, it is our past:
For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles. (Romans 1:21-23)
This is our debt that we owed the King. This is what we could not pay for. He gave us the freedom to choose and we chose rebellion. Each of us was not without sin, without debt; we owed God big time, much more than millions of dollars. Listen:
They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they are senseless, faithless, heartless, ruthless. (Romans 1:29-31)
This is us he is describing. This is our history, our past, our origins. It doesn't matter which sin you identify with or even if you identify with them all, doing one is like doing them all.
This is the beauty of our God: He paid what we could not pay. He cancelled out our debt. He forgave ever offence, every act of rebellion, every depraved thought and action. We deserved death but through his own actions in Jesus Christ, he cancelled that death sentence. Knowing this then, we became great sources of forgiveness, mercy and grace, pouring out into others what we ourselves received. Right? If only.
Unfortunately many of us miss the point and think that God has done this for us because we are special. We are no more special than the druggy in the back ally. The only difference is we have accepted God's grace and mercy and that poor man in that back ally hasn't yet. God's love and attention on us all is equal. So having received this grace we should become sources of grace, not condemnation:
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. (Romans 2:1)
We are no different than any other human being on the face of this planet; we all come from the same place. The difference comes in what we have accepted from God. We have accepted his mercy and grace where others have not. We can identify with where these people are, the darkness that engulfs them, the sin that imprisons them. Patience and love should be easy things for us, as should be grace and forgiveness. Jesus told us this:
From everyone who has been given much, much will be demanded; and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked. (Luke 12:48)
Much grace has been given to us so much grace is demanded from us. Instead of running away from the world we should be running to it. Not to become engaged with sin again and not to throw rocks at those who are still lost in sin, but instead to be the nurses and doctors that this world needs. We have the key to share with them that will set them free, but refusing to give them the key while throwing rocks at them is just wrong. We will have to answer for that. According to Jesus' parable, the king will cancel our cancelled debt and we will stand alongside those we have judged to be judged ourselves.
We need to do more than apply God's grace to ourselves and consider ourselves a cut above society. We need to live God's grace by applying it to others so they too will understand what we have understood and receive what we have received. Our actions and attitudes cannot be a barrier to those who want to know God because if they are we will have to answer for it, and it will not go well for us. There is much more to this life than the comforts we seek. We are here as an example of God's glory and grace so let's start living the part.