Summary: The wickedness of society must lead to divine intervention. Let the people of God be righteous and godly.
“The wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things.
“Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.
“For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.
“And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God’s decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.”
As a young pastor, though I might occasionally make reference to this particular text, I would not have dared speak from it—the passage was thought too vivid, too graphic in its description of wickedness and depravity. However, we live in a day in which depravity and wickedness are imported into our homes as entertainment. What was once unspoken in polite society, now parades as the standard of morality for mankind in this present dying era. Even Christians seem to revel in their rebellion against godliness. It is as if the professed people of God imagine that through embracing wickedness they exalt the grace of God. Our culture has exalted tolerance and elevated compromise to a virtue.
Early in my service, I naïvely imagined that churches should influence society toward good, leading mankind to embrace righteousness and justice. One would have been on solid ground arguing that such responsibility is imposed by the command of the Master. However, during my lifetime I’ve witnessed an inversion of moral righteousness transforming society and consequently, transforming the churches. Rather than influencing society, churches today are more likely to be influenced by society—rather than being transformational, to a disturbing extend churches are being transformed. And the transformation is not for better; it is marked by a turning from righteousness even as the professed people of God embrace wickedness.
Without question many churches have been overly harsh toward selected sins, while ignoring the wicked actions and evil attitudes that are tolerated within their own congregation. Christians have too often categorized sin, defining various acts as evil to suit our own particular interests. Nevertheless, responsibility is imposed on that one appointed by God to deliver the message of life—he must expose sin, warning of its consequences while calling all people to repentance and faith. Whether the denizens of this fallen world embrace life or reject life, the servant of God has been given the apostolic charge: “In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching” [2 TIMOTHY 4:1, 2]. Likewise, the people of God are charged to stand with the man of God in resisting wickedness. Nor may we redefine wickedness to suit the attitude of the day. Our divine definition has been delivered through the Word of the True and Living God.
It will prove valuable for us to review the Apostle’s description of Roman society at the time he wrote; it presents a picture not unlike that presented by contemporary society. For all our vaunted technological advancement today, we struggle against the evil lurking in man’s heart. Despite having an apparently greater capacity to ensure a comfortable life, there is widespread dissatisfaction with life. People are ill at ease with their situation and uncertain of the future. Tragically, this lack of confidence, this uncertainty of the future, is infiltrating the churches, causing unrest and uncertainty for the people of God.