“Therefore you are inexcusable, O man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things.”
Beginning with the eighteenth verse of chapter one, Paul is developing his case against humanity. He states, because of the inner witness of the conscience, and the outer witness of creation, men have no excuse for atheism, agnosticism, or idolatry. He makes it clear, unbelief is primarily driven, not by lack of evidence of the divine, but out of a desire to practice things God forbids. He speaks of those who reject the truth in order to practice unrighteousness.
After giving a long list of sinful activities, Paul declares, it is not only the one involved in such sins, but also the one who looks on with approval, who is guilty before God. One of the fascinating issues of today, is the widespread idea that tolerance means we must accept behaviors and lifestyles that are lived in open defiance to the teaching of the Word of God. Many, practicing these behaviors, even go so far as to say that God is TOLERANT of their behaviors, even though His Word clearly condemns such actions. We live in a time where people are afraid to stand up and call sin what it is, and as a result, we find ourselves approving lifestyles that God condemns. As the second chapter of Romans unfolds, Paul’s attention switches from those who assume any and all behaviors are acceptable to God, to those who think they will be accepted for the things they don’t do.
I am reminded of a story Jesus told of a Pharisee who stood before God, attempting to justify himself. He prayed, “God I thank you that I am not like other men, I am not an extortioner, I am not unjust and I am not a tax collector…” (Luke 18:10-14) This man considered himself to be acceptable to God for the things He did not do. What we ‘don’t do’ is not what makes us right with God; because what we ‘don’t do’ in action, we often do in thought. Jesus explained that adultery, theft, and murder were issues of the heart, as much as they are actions of the body. When I look at a woman with lust, I am guilty of the same sin as the man who is cheating on his wife, or having sexual relations before marriage. Paul put it like this, “And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?” Romans 2:3
If you assume God will look past your sins because they are not as bad as the sins of others, you have misunderstood the righteousness of God. The list of things we have not done does not justify us before God. Instead ,we are justified when we realize our need for a savior, and put our trust in Christ. This long treatise that Paul develops is to remove all excuses, and bring each of us to a place of accepting Christ; having our sins removed, and receiving eternal life. I realize some of us feel stuck in our sins. We have been practicing them for so long they have become a part of us. Will you allow me to encourage you? When you come to Christ, He will wash your sins from you, as far as the East is from the West. He wants to give you a brand new start in life, by making you a new creation in Christ. Rather than excusing our sins, let’s confess them, and allow Him to transform us into the persons He designed us to be.