Romans 2:1-16 1.) A few years ago there was a big ruckus over a stone monument of the Ten Commandments placed in the rotunda of the Alabama Supreme Court building. Many argued that the display was a violation of the separation of church and state and should be removed. Others maintained it was not only an expression of faith but the basis of moral law and the inspiration of many societal laws and that the commandments should remain. Those who argued for removal ultimately won the day in court and the monument was removed. The debate prompted politicians and citizens alike to weigh in on the controversy. Many who wanted the monument to remain wore t-shirts and put yard signs out with a list of the commandments. There were even some who framed support for the monument and the presence of outward signs as proof of one’s dedication to God and Holy Scripture. And yet some of the same people who so passionately displayed the outward signs of the Ten Commandments violated certain aspects of their spirit through their behavior in the controversy. There was name calling, condemnation and vitriol aplenty. They certainly trampled on Jesus’ great commandment to love our neighbors as ourselves. It was almost as if the supporters of the monument thought the more and louder they could scream, even at the cost of being civil and kind to those with whom he disagreed, the more it showed their love for God. A sign in the yard or a t-shirt on the body was a ticket to God’s acceptance. Paul addresses this type of behavior in Romans 2. He aims his words in this section towards the Jew who judged non-Jews for certain behavior in which the Jews themselves were involved. There was an idea among many Jews that their birth as a Jew put them in a favored place with God. This place of privilege protected the Jew from God’s judgment and “wrath.” They believed their actions and devotion to God were trumped by their birth. But Paul tells them that all are sinners in need of God’s compassion and righteousness. God’s kindness, Paul says, “is meant to lead you to repentance.” (Rom 2:4). Repentance means “to turn” and Paul tells them that this kindness must involve a turning toward God from sin and separation. There are times when I am guilty of the same behavior and I’ll bet I’m not alone. It’s easy for us to get a feeling of priority for the “Christian” things we do and say. If we say the right things about God, quote the Word and go to church, somehow the other behaviors that hurt God and neighbor don’t matter as much. We think maybe God will overlook this because of that. It’s not enough to go through the motions or say the right words. It is not enough to write the righteousness of God on a yard sign and parade it for our neighbors. It must be written on our hearts so that it is part of our being. We can’t use God’s love and kindness as a license to do things that separate us from that same love and kindness. There must be a turning toward God and God’s righteousness, which means there must be a turning away from the behavior that separates us from God (sin). If there is no repentance, we are just dialing it. This ultimately leads to a sickness of the soul and a lack of peace. The good news is that it is never too late to turn. A few questions: What does repentance mean to you? How do we abuse the kindness of God? Are there things in your life from which you must repent? Are there times when you feel you dialing it in as it relates to your life of faith? What do you do in those moments?
Reflection: The Rev. Ollie Rencher Rector, Grace-St. Luke's Episcopal Church, Memphis, TN Board of Directors, The Gathering of Leaders The baptismal call to navigate this world and other human beings, our companion images of God, in the love, light, and hope of Jesus is no small charge. This daily invitation presents countless opportunities and lifechanging choices to move deeper into the way of Jesus and to make him known. Whenever we bless, rejoice, weep, serve, and seek both equity and peace with another, we faithfully are practicing Christian goodness. In all things and with God’s help, let us choose goodness in the name of Jesus.