Epistle Reading Romans 2:10-16

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, Amen. Christ is in our midst! He is and shall be!

In this morning’s Epistle reading from St. Paul to the Church in Rome, St. Paul gives us some insight into the judgments of God. And specifically – how God judges the actions of man. Obviously, St. Paul thought this was an important thing for us to understand. And it’s important for several reasons – how God judges man reveals again [in addition to the Scriptures and the life of Christ] the love of God for man; His desire for us is our redemption and our salvation. And also, if we have some insight into how God judges, it may help us work on one of the passions that just plagues humanity: which is our constant judgment and criticism of each other.

There are many false notions about God in our world, and there are some terrible mis-representations of God as an angry and vindictive judge who just can’t wait for the chance to punish us for all of our failures. But that’s not the image St. Paul paints this morning. God is Love, God is Truth – and the judgments of God flow from Who He Is. And one of the potentially most “scandalous” realities that comes through from St. Paul, is that the judgments of God are not monolithic. Everyone is not judged in the exact same way. We are individuals, with various experiences and abilities, and we’re treated by God as individuals. It’s like parents try to be with their children – they love their children, and they strive to be fair, but each child has to be treated as a unique person. We aren’t all the same.

I’d like to read an excerpt from this morning’s Epistle:
But glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For there is no partiality with God…for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them (Romans 2:10-11, 14-15).

When God judges man, He sees us for who we are. There is no partiality with God, St. Paul writes. God doesn’t play favorites based on any factors (the Jews despised the Gentiles because they were outside of the law, but St. Paul makes it clear to them that God will treat each person as they are). And he goes on to explain that the Gentile will not be judged according to the law given to the Jews. That wouldn’t be fair – to be measured by a standard that you never knew. Rather, the Gentile will be judged according to the law written on their hearts. Those without the law are measured by their conscience. Our conscience is our God-given way to know what’s right and what’s wrong. The second century apologist St. Justin Martyr makes exactly this point, using St. Paul as a reference – those with no knowledge of Christ will be judged according to their conscience. This is an enormously important point for us to remember. It shows us the lengths of God’s love – after all that was done for our salvation, He still treats each of us as a unique person. God’s desire is not to exclude people from the Kingdom, but to call us all to Himself.

And when we hear St. Paul explaining for us these judgments of God, we’re immediately reminded that the Scriptures also warn us not to judge one another – all judgment belongs to God [and in fact, that judgment will be carried out by Christ]. When we judge one another, we judge based on us, based on what we expect or want of another. We can’t be magnanimous judges (the type described in the Epistle) because all of our judgments revolve around us, and we’re fallen and in need of being judged ourselves. God judges in Truth and in Love – and it’s a grave sin to take on ourselves this prerogative of God’s. In St. Matthew’s Gospel we read (7:1) “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”

The bottom line, when we’re reflecting on the judgments of God, is that God judges not only our deeds, but also our heart. God has everything in the universe at His disposal, and His desire for us is that each and every person be saved. We can take refuge in that knowledge. So the only thing left is our question to ourselves – is our desire Christ, are our struggles for Christ. We do our part – we struggle to live our lives for Christ, according to the Gospel – and we can safely leave the judging to God.

Glory to Jesus Christ! Glory forever!

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