PRAYER: Our heavenly Father, we thank you that you do tell us the truth. You are the God of truth. You do not deceive us, you do not delude us; you tell us the blunt, stark, naked truth, that we might know exactly what we are, and what we can do about it. Save us, Lord, from the folly of trying any other method. Save us from the folly of trying to protect and rationalize and justify these areas of evil in our lives. Grant to us, Lord, the grace to confess and be forgiven. In Jesus' name, Amen.
First, Paul says that people know the difference between right and wrong; otherwise they would not presume to be judging. They have a clear understanding of a standard. They know that one thing is wrong and another thing is right.
Paul's second point about these people who have a clear view of what is wrong in society is devastating. He says they are guilty because they are doing the same things themselves. The judges are as guilty as the ones they have in the dock.
I am going to use myself as an example, simply because I feel I am such an excellent example of what the rest of you are like. As I have been thinking this through, I see three ways by which I try to elude the fact that I am guilty of the things that I accuse others of doing: First, I am congenitally blind toward many of my own faults. I just am not aware of them. I do not see that I am doing the same things that others are doing, and yet other people can see that I am. I don't see it, and neither do you see it in yourself. We all have these blind spots. One of the greatest lies of our age is the idea that we can know ourselves. We often argue, "Don't you think I know myself?" The answer is, "No, you do not know yourself. You are blind to much of your life." There can be areas that are very hurtful and sinful that you are not aware of.
A second way we try to elude the fact that we are guilty of the very things we accuse others of doing is by conveniently forgetting what we have done that is wrong. We may have been aware of our sin at the time, but somehow we just assume that God is going to forget it. We do not have to acknowledge it in any way -- he will just forget it. As the sin fades from our memory, we think it fades from his, as well.
We think these things will go unnoticed, but God sees them in our heart. He sees all the actions that we conveniently have forgotten. He sees it when we cut people down, or speak with spite and sharpness, and deliberately try to hurt them. He sees it when we are unfair in our business tactics, when we are arrogant toward someone we think is on a lower social level than ourselves. He sees it when we are stubborn and uncooperative in trying to work out a tense situation. All these things God takes note of. We, who condemn these things in others, find ourselves guilty of the same things. Isn't it remarkable that when others mistreat us we always think it is most serious and requires immediate correction. But when we mistreat others, we say to them. "You're making so much out of a little thing! Why it's so trivial and insignificant."
The third way we try to elude the fact that we are guilty of the very things we accuse others of doing is by cleverly renaming things. Other people lie and cheat; we simply stretch the truth a little. Others betray; we simply are protecting our rights. Others steal; we borrow. Others have prejudices; we have convictions. Others murder and kill; we exploit and ruin. Others rape; we pollute. We cry, "Those people ought to be stoned!" Jesus says, "He that is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone," (John 8:7). Yes, we are all guilty of the same things we accuse others of doing.
Paul's question is, "Why are you acting the way you are?" Why do you judge others so critically and so constantly, yet never seem to judge yourself? Surely it can't be that you think you are going to escape! If you know that God judges according to truth, you must be included in that judgment as well. If it is not that you think you'll escape his judgment, then it must be that you are treating with disdain the opportunities God gives you to repent. Why are you allowed to live? Why are you permitted to experience life, to find a new year lying ahead of you, with all its chances to correct these wrong attitudes and conditions? God's goodness, tolerance, and patience are exhibited in his giving you a chance to change, a chance to acknowledge your sins and to be forgiven. We have to see all our life in this respect. A faithful God, judging the inner part of life, does give us these opportunities. He knows we are blind. He knows that we often struggle at recognizing what is wrong in our life, and so he gives us these opportunities to repent and change. These moments of truth are very important.
Perhaps there are many Christians here who have realized that when we protect and allow areas of our life to be given over to this kind of judgmental condemning and criticizing of other people, we are blocking the flow of the life of God to our lives, keeping back the joy and peace that he would have us enjoy. These areas need to be judged in the Christian life as well as in the unredeemed life.
Above all else, this process is designed to make us take seriously God's way of escape. There is a way of escape: Admit your sins freely, and receive the forgiveness of God -- on the basis of the work of Jesus Christ in his death on the cross and his resurrection life available to us.
Reference: Ray Stedman sermon 1976, He is one of the twentieth century's foremost pastors and biblical expositors.