Yesterday we were in Proverbs 16, today the assigned chapter is Romans 2. What on earth have we landed ourselves in?
We’re in at the deep end, treading water. Paul is acting as lifeguard. Well, he’s wearing the bright jacket, but right now he’s marching up and down at the edge, waving his arms and blowing his whistle loudly as though that will get us out: ‘you have no excuse, whoever you are…’. Oh dear, it seems he’s blaming us for our predicament.
Yes, he’s pacing up and down, waving his arms and asking questions. Nine of them! Here’s one:
Do you imagine, whoever you are, that … when you do them yourself
you will escape the judgment of God?
There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first
and also the Greek.
You know, when it comes to a queue, I do prefer to be near the front. You ever queued at Home Affairs? But it doesn’t sound like an advantage to be first in the queue for ‘anguish and distress’. Not being a Jew sounds a better option. And I’m not Greek either. So…?
Just when it seems to be getting better, my worst suspicions are confirmed. Paul’s using ‘Greek’ as a blanket term for non-Jewish, the way that Apartheid used ‘non-White’ as a blanket term for everyone not among the lucky racial elite.
Then he starts getting uncomfortably up-close and personal by talking about things I wouldn’t be discussing with my doctor if I could help it. Er, what things? Okay, to put it bluntly, circumcision. It seems to come up a lot. I mean, if you’re a man, it’s Yes or No. There’s no third box on the form to tick. But in Paul’s view, apparently, you’re in for the chop whichever box you tick or leave blank. That’s his point.
This is outrageous. I mean, consider this. Jewish boys were done at 8 days. That’s younger than I took my tomcat kitten to the vet. What say did they have? Answer me that one.
Ah. But Paul studied under Gamaliel, you know. Top school and top of his class. He’s smart. This seems to be his big idea. It doesn’t count. Being Jewish and not being a dirty Gentile doesn’t count. He’s moving the goal posts. He’s redefining circumcision. Redefining the initiation ritual. He’s telling everyone inclusively: “You don’t keep God’s laws perfectly and you don’t join God’s family by luck. Being born Jewish doesn’t count. It’s not your entry ticket. Being self-righteous about being Jewish is proof in and of itself of not being right with God!”
“No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God… it is a change of heart
produced by God’s Spirit.” (Romans 2:29, NLT)
The lifebelt that Paul is waving around from the edge of the pool he only wants to throw out when everyone, inclusively, knows that they’re going to drown without it. That lifebelt is faith in Jesus and the undeserved grace of God in offering us forgiveness, life and peace with Him through Jesus.
I know that because I cheated and read ahead beyond Romans 2. I hope you will too. Because you’re certainly going to get tired out treading water otherwise.