(I hope you enjoy this “reading” of the first half of Paul’s letter to the Romans. The verses quoted are from the New Living Translation.)
If the only record of our culture for the future to see were limited to what they show on television, what kind of people would we appear to be? Almost every show has “lowered the morality bar.” Sex is casual. Language is vulgar. Reality TV makes us all appear to be gossips who don’t mind talking behind other people’s backs, but also embrace a “live and let live” philosophy that is diametrically opposed to a life that leans on God. As my grandparents would have said, “It’s all just a bunch of foolishness.”
Paul wrote about the same kind of foolishness in his letter to the church in Rome:
Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, He abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. . . . They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too (Romans 1:28, 32).
Just because we exist in a culture that wants to say everything is OK because that culture doesn’t have any solid base on which to stand does not mean that we as Christians should back down from the truths of living a life in the Spirit. Paul makes it clear that we are meant to follow the law of God’s Spirit, especially because we have that Spirit to guide us as part of the gift of Jesus’ sacrifice for us:
“For merely listening to the law doesn’t make us right with God. It is obeying the law that makes us right in his sight” (Romans 2:13). “For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are” (Romans 3:20). “Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith” (Romans 3:27). “Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law” (Romans 3:31). “Now [that you have accepted Christ as your Savior] you do those things that lead to holiness and result in eternal life” (Romans 6:22b). “Now we can serve God, not in the old way of obeying the letter of the law, but in the new way of living in the Spirit” (Romans 7:6b).
As sinners, if we received from God what we actually deserve for our behavior, we would have no hope. Instead, as Paul writes, “Can’t you see that His kindness [in giving us the opportunity to accept the grace of Christ] is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4b) The discipline to choose the Spirit over the flesh every day of our lives is tantamount to a life, not of foolishness, but of faith:
“Don’t you realize that you become the slave of whatever you choose to obey?” (Romans 6:16a) “Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit” (Romans 8: 5). “And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people” (Romans 2:29b).
What kind of world would it be if we Christians determined to really live the law of the Spirit and not just read about it? Would we have such a high divorce rate? Would we have so many single parents or abandoned children? Would our headlines be filled with information people could really use, or with political agendas that try to convince us that what is true is actually contrary to what is found in the word of God?
Maybe the world isn’t any better or worse than it has ever been. Maybe in a world where we exist in information overload, we just know too much about everything, including what was once kept secret–except no life is secret from the eyes of an omnipresent God:
“And this is the message I proclaim–that the day is coming when God, through Christ Jesus, will judge everyone’s secret life” (Romans 2:16).
We can live a life that needs no secrets if we will only embrace the promise of our living God. My goal is to live the Word and not just read it. And to stop my foolishness!