Summary: Justice isn’t necessarily a desirable thing. Better to receive God’s grace than to have justice applied to our lives.
I haven’t watched much of the winter Olympics this last fortnight, but I did happen to be watching the night there was all the controversy about the figure skating. I saw the Russian pair do their thing, then watched as the commentary team analysed their performance in slow motion showing all the mistakes they’d made. Then I watched the Canadian pair do what appeared to be a flawless routine, only to be awarded the silver medal behind the Russians. Well, it seemed fairly obvious even to my untrained eye that a great injustice had been done. And so it did to a great majority of others. So much so that there was a call for an inquiry. People wanted to see justice done and in the end the Canadians were made equal gold medallists with the Russians.
We feel a great sense of outrage, don’t we, when we see some injustice done. We’ve seen it in the last few weeks with the controversy over the Governor- General’s role in dealing with child sex abusers. We don’t want to see people getting away with what we perceive as evil deeds. We’ve seen it this last week with Kevan Gosper’s son being admitted to Melbourne Uni ahead of others who had equal or higher scores than he.
We’ve seen it with the boat people scandal - the asylum seekers who didn’t in fact throw their children overboard. People have been crying out for an explanation, for the truth behind the claims by the government before the election that these people were throwing their children overboard to get our sympathy. We’re outraged by the thought that it was in fact the politicians who were looking for our sympathy and playing up these fictitious reports just to get votes.
And if the truth should turn out to be that they knew the real story all along, then we’d be crying out for justice to be done.
Paul is writing to the Romans, to a church made up of Jews and Gentiles, to convince them that salvation comes by God’s grace alone. He wants them to understand that salvation is law-free, grace based and Christ centred. So he’s begun by pointing out how the efforts of human beings to obey God are essentially flawed, that rather than responding to the truth of God as witnessed to by the creation, we’ve suppressed the truth and followed our own foolish thinking. And he can just imagine some of the people in the church there thinking to themselves how right Paul is; how terrible the world outside the church has become, how deluded people are, perhaps even how deluded some of them used to be, before they saw the light. How just God would be to bring down the fire of his judgement on these people. And he imagines, especially, how the Jewish Christians in the church may be reacting to his statements about the foolishness of pagan religion.
This is how people so often react in fact. They look at other people’s foolishness or wickedness and pass judgement on them. The evils that Paul has pointed out are so obvious that anyone can see how far those people have gone astray. But, Paul points out, they’re making a mistake in judging these people. In fact they’re making three mistakes. Can you see what they are?