Summary: What, or who, is on the inside is one of hte most important determinates or detriments to living between the lines.
“Between the Lines: It’s An Inside Job”
A robbery occurred in the branch bank where we did our banking. Law enforcement officers stated that the evidence pointed towards an “inside job.” The crime had been carried out in such a way that only someone who knew the bank from the inside and had special access could have committed it. And they were right. One of the young tellers who frequently waited on us was involved. She and her cohorts had done a poor job of planning – but they had the right idea. People on the inside of something know things, and have access to places, that others do not. And that’s a principle of life: What, or who, is on the inside is one of the most important determinates or detriments to living between the lines. So Paul, in chapter two of Romans, forces us to look inside to evaluate whether or not we are currently living between the lines. In doing so he lists three criteria.
First, Paul raised THE TREND OF SUPERIORITY (11-16). In chapter one, Paul convincingly outlined the sin and corresponding judgment of the world. He stated that God had given and was giving people over to their own hellish desires because of their neglect of God, their sexual impurity, shameful lusts, unnatural sexual relations, every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity, envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice, gossip, slandering, insolence, hatred of God, arrogance, boastfulness, their invention of ways to do evil, disobedience to parents, senselessness, faithlessness, heartlessness, and ruthlessness. After hearing this catalog of extensive evil our tendency is to say, “Yes, Paul, the world sure is in bad shape. Those sinners, those non-Christians sure have made a mess of things. They deserve hell.” Ever thought like that? Of course, this implies that we do not deserve hell. IT’S SO EASY TO FEEL SUPERIOR, isn’t it?
What’s your initial reaction when the news announces that some notorious convicted murderer has become a Christian. He repented and was sorry for what he did. He was even baptized, began reading Christian books and attending chapel. Do you immediately jump for joy? Or are you skeptical – or perhaps even disappointed? It’s hard to believe – in fact, we’re not sure we want to meet him in Heaven. It just doesn’t seem right or fair, does it? After all, he deserves hell. What if, prior to his hanging, Saddam Hussein announced he had become a Christian? How would you have responded to the news? After all, he too deserves hell, doesn’t he? Ever thought like that? Of course, anytime we think like this it implies that we feel we do not deserve hell. It’s so easy to feel superior, isn’t it?
We must be careful about an attitude of superiority. When we selectively compare ourselves to others, we feel so squeaky-clean. And we like that feeling! But remember Jesus’ story in Luke 18:9-13: “To some who were confident of their own righteousness and looked down on everybody else, Jesus told this parable: "Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood up and prayed about himself: ’God, I thank you that I am not like other men--robbers, evildoers, adulterers--or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.’ "But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ’God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’ "I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted." How many times have you said, “My, the sermon was great! I sure hope so and so was listening!” (In other words, “I’m glad I’m not like them.”) Or what about, “I would never do that!” (“I’m not that bad!”)
Listen to Paul (11): “GOD DOES NOT SHOW FAVORITISM.” Paul’s chief charge against the people of the world was that they had not lived up to the light they had. He then pointed to the Christians and said, “You are guilty of exactly the same thing. You have not lived up to the light – the Law – you have.” What we see in others is really within ourselves. Sir Percival Lowell was esteemed for his study of the solar system. He had a particular fascination with Mars. He was convinced that there were canals on Mars and spent years mapping them. We now know there are not canals on mars. It turns out that Lowell suffered from a rare eye disease that made him see the blood vessels in his own eyes. The disease is, in fact, now called “Lowell’s syndrome.” So we see in others is often really in ourselves. Want proof? Today the morality of Christians is indistinguishable from that of non-Christians. Poll after poll shows the same attitudes and behavior. While we have been busy condemning the way of the world we have been lowering our own standards of morality and decency. But we want justice for others and mercy for ourselves. Perhaps that’s why Paul said, (1:18): “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against ALL the godlessness and wickedness of men…” Even our wickedness. As Max Lucado wrote: “From God’s perspective there is no difference between the ungodly party-goer, the ungodly finger-pointer, and the ungodly pew-sitter. The Penthouse gang, the courthouse clan, and the church choir need the same message: Without God all are lost.”