Romans 2: 1 – 16 God’s righteous judgment
You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things. Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. So when you, a mere human being, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment? Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realising that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God’s wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed. God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done.’ To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honour and immortality, he will give eternal life. But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger. There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile; but glory, honour and peace for everyone who does good: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For God does not show favouritism.
All who sin apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who sin under the law will be judged by the law. For it is not those who hear the law who are righteous in God’s sight, but it is those who obey the law who will be declared righteous. (Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them, and at other times even defending them.) This will take place on the day when God judged people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
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To whom is this passage written?
It’s written to all who judge the behaviour of others. That is to say, it’s written to every one of us, because we all judge others. We do it unthinkingly. “What a rotten driver,” we might say after someone has carved us up on the road. “She left that child all on her own in the house for three hours and she’s only nine years old,” a woman might say of her neighbour.
Now, these seem like ‘trivial’ matters, but Paul is telling us in this passage that they are important; indeed, they are extremely important. They are so important that God is going to hold us to account for our actions. Paul makes it very clear that this applies to everybody, Jew and Gentile alike.
In fact, these ‘trivial’ matters have consequences. If I am criticising someone, I am not loving them. I am putting a barrier between them and me. Indeed, it is worse even than that; I am wilfully ignoring the fact that they are made in the image of God, just as I am. If I fail to see the image of God in them, how can they ever communicate God’s love to me?
Recently, during Covid lockdown, I was taking my daily exercise walk by a river in a wooded valley. I met a group of about ten people walking the other way. They left me no room to socially distance (unless I’d jumped into the river!). I felt critical of them – I judged them. And God said to me, “These are my children, and they are precious to me.”
So, what this passage teaches me is that I am not to judge others. Judging others causes division and hinders God’s work.
Judging is not our job. If any judging is needed, we can safely leave it to God.
Our job is very simple; it is to love our neighbour.
I am sorry that I judge other people. Please open my heart, so that I can share your love with them instead.
In Jesus’ name, Amen