Therefore you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things. 2 We know that the judgment of God rightly falls on those who practice such things. 3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God? 4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
6 He will render to each one according to his works: 7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury. 9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11 For God shows no partiality. 12 For all who have sinned without the law will also perish without the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged by the law. 13 For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified. 14 For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. 15 They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them 16 on that day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.
When you judge others are you aware of your own actions? We know that God is judging those who are living in broken relationships and consequently live lives in opposition to God’s creative intent. Are you saying that the brokenness of the outsiders causes God to judge them more severely than the brokenness of you insiders?
Right. . .you know about the kindness and goodness of God because you are His people. You know how He has overlooked your own sin and brokenness and loved you anyway. You know how patient God is with you when you continue to struggle with your own brokenness and destructive behavior. God’s relational faithfulness toward you is not permission to continue to live and think the way you do. Rather, His relational faithfulness is designed to invite you to think differently – to think about your lives the way God thinks about them.
But you refuse to learn to think the way God thinks. The consequences of what your hearts are choosing to partner with are knocking at the door. God will reveal what values and loyalties are really in operation in your hearts and minds. It will be painful for you if you don’t change your thinking.
God will make a decision to reward or refine each person, insider or outsider, according to what they choose to spend their life on. If a person faithfully spends his or her life seeking to live in the name and identity God has given them, if they seek a reward from God for living in right relationship with Him and with others, and if they live with a value for pursuing and stewarding the things that are eternal, God will cover them and impregnate them with the incorruptible and never–ending life and love of heaven. But for the person who separates themselves from the name and identity God has given them, who embraces relationship with other gods and other value systems, they will receive what those gods value and what those gods create, namely suffering, pain and death. There will be anguish and slavery for every human being who pursues and values the things that are not God’s heart for humanity, both insiders and outsiders. But for those who value what God says about them over all other voices there will be a visible manifestation of the name, the glory God has given them, they will reap the powerful harvest of living in right relationship with God and others, and they will rest and prosper, both insiders and outsiders. It’s time to get rid of these false names of insider and outsider. God doesn’t have such categories.
Let’s talk about insiders and outsiders, Jews and non–Jews. . .
Is your loyalty to Moses? Do you get your identity from being the keepers of the law of Moses? Do you evaluate your right relationship with God and others by your faithfulness to the the law of Moses? That’s your choice. Just know, that if your value system and power structure is the law of Moses, it’s the fruit of that value system and power structure that will grow in you and it will not bring life. It’s the same with the Gentile laws, their value systems and their power structures. Those are powerless to give life as well.
Don’t you know there is a creamy–nuggety center to the law? Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind, and love your neighbor as yourself. It doesn’t matter if you get your identity from being keepers of the Law of Moses if you are not able to live the heart of the law. You know, when Gentiles love God will all their heart, soul and mind and love their neighbors as themselves, God sees them as law keepers even though they have little or no idea of what’s in the law of Moses. Don’t you remember that the prophet Jeremiah predicted that God would write His law on our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33)? Well that’s happening, even with Gentiles. Yes, there is an internal wrestling match between submitting to God’s law or to submit to some other law. Don’t you want to know who truly loves God and who doesn’t? Good news, God will put our hearts on display and the truth of our internal culture will be revealed.
“Judge” and “Judgment”
This concept in Greek has as its root idea that a decision is made by one who is empowered to render a ruling.
This can be a positive ruling or a negative ruling and all of the other nuanced rulings in between.
Somewhere along the way this concept of “judgment” was hijacked by the fear gospel and has become a universal trigger in the hearts and minds of Christians, instantly evoking punishment, damnation, fear, violence, and other nasty expressions that we have been taught to attribute to God.
Let’s take a closer look. . .
Throughout the Jewish Scriptures, and consequently throughout Jewish history and culture we have a narrative of God being judge. Many stories from the Hebrew Scriptures attribute punishment, wrath, suffering, pestilence, disease, death, and a host of other “judgments” to God.
I believe that this is the product of an inferior revelation of what God is like.
If Jesus is perfect theology, if Jesus has come to reveal the Father by doing what the Father does (John 5:19), if Jesus gives life to the dead and judges no one, if Jesus teaches us that this is what His father does (John 5:21-22), and if the Son of God is willing to die for the sins of the world, I would begin to suspect that God is exactly the kind of judge I would want judging me, whether I was Christian, Buddhist, Muslim, Jewish, atheist, or otherwise.
Paul is asserting that God judges – He judges our works (Romans 2:6) and decides accordingly. This suggests varied and nuanced judgments. The cookie cutter theology of Great White Throne fame is not what Paul is teaching. The saved go north and the unsaved go south is not a concept here in Paul’s letter.
Remember, Paul is not ashamed of his good news story because God’s faithfulness in His relationships is revealed. And this faithfulness from God toward humanity carries the power to make us whole. How, you ask, through the revelation of Jesus, the one sent from God, revealing what God is like, showing us that Jesus’ faithfulness enables us also to also walk in relational faithfulness. (Romans 1:16-17)
So can we set aside our triggered responses to the word “judgment” and allow a new concept to grow in our hearts regarding the “judgment” of God?
He looks at how we live, through the immovable, infinite generosity of His great Love, and He will decide how to respond to how we have chosen to live our lives.
No longer will we picture Caesar in the Coliseum with a thumbs up or a thumbs down verdict. Not only is this un–Biblical, it is expressly pagan. This is the power of human judgment; in or out, life or death, eternal bliss or eternal torment.
God’s judgments are universally the product of His great love. While we were still sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
With this concept of divine “judgment” in mind, let’s take a look at how Paul presents the idea of humans rendering judgment.
“Therefore you have no excuse, o man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself”
Many Bible teachers teach that we as humans should not judge each other. “Judge not, lest you be judged” leaps into our minds at this point. There is misunderstanding at this point because we do not understand the nuances of the concept of “judgment” that are at work in the text of Scripture.
NOT ALL JUDGMENT IS THE SAME THING
Human judgment is not the same as God’s judgment.
Sowing and reaping, fair, equitable, justice, and judgments that empower our laws are necessary aspects of human judgment, and quite frankly the Bible causes us to expect similar values from God’s just judgments. The wicked are expected to be removed from power and are expected to receive what their actions deserve. The oppressed are expected to be set free and receive back what the oppressor has stolen from them.
The movement from human expectation of “judgment” toward God’s expression of judgment must pass through the one sent from God to be the way, the truth and the author and giver of life. No one can live in agreement to the Father’s heart without making a decision about what Jesus came to reveal (John 14:6).
While human judgment separates the “judged” from the just, bringing punishment to bear on the guilty through some form of separation (incarceration and death), God’s “judgments” bring us closer to Him, into the truth of what our choices have created. AT NO TIME IN THIS PROCESS DOES GOD TURN HIS LOVE OFF.
So when Paul rebukes those passing “judgment” on the law breakers in Romans 2, he is not speaking about the “judging” that is an accurate assessment of broken behavior. Every persons must learn to accurately “judge” or assess the behavior of others and decide what to do about it.
Rather, Paul is opposing the “judging” that also renders a permanent verdict. The 1st century Jewish tendency was to make law keeping and circumcision the basis for separating themselves from the “judged” (practically speaking this meant all non–Jews). It was a difficult move for Jewish believers to let go of centuries of communal identity, purchased through shared persecution for being a people separated to God. They faithfully circumcised their boys and they faithfully taught and obeyed the Mosaic law. There was a great deal of social inertia keeping
Jewish believers from seeing the faithfulness of Jesus as the only point of “judgment” that God used when deciding who has access to His kingdom.
So to sum up this discussion:
1. Human judgment separates the good people from the bad people.
2. God’s judgment brings us all closer as He reveals the true nature of our hearts and the consequences of our choices.
3. Human judgment uses fear, punishment and death to attach a permanent label to those in the wrong.
4. God’s judgment causes us to see our hearts for what they truly are, NEVER removing the presence of and opportunity to experience His great love from even the most heinous crimes.
5. Human judgment produces insiders and outsiders, those with hope and those whose lot in life is despair.
6. God’s judgment ALWAYS brings hope, even in the most impossible expressions of human brokenness.