Summary: What Makes You So Certain You’ll Escape God’s Wrath On Judgment Day? 1) Justice? No! 2) Jesus? Yes!
After the Vancouver Canucks lost the Stanley Cup last June, hundreds of people rioted in the streets smashing cars, looting stores, and assaulting those who got in their way. It was the largest crime spree in the history of British Columbia. But it wasn’t until last week, five months after the disturbance, that any rioters were charged. What took so long? Police Chief Jim Chu explained: “We made a commitment to...bring before the courts the full extent of the crimes committed by each rioter to ensure the most serious sentences.” In other words, “We took our time to investigate thoroughly because we didn’t want anyone to get away with anything.”
Chu went on to cite the case of a Vancouver Island man who, days after the riot, confessed to damaging a car. Investigators were going to recommend a single charge against the young man, but held off until further video of the riot could be processed. Within 20 minutes of putting that man’s description in the database, the computer returned new videos of the same suspect smashing up five other vehicles including a police car and breaking in to a coffee shop, a clothing store, and a department store. He is now facing six counts of mischief and three counts of break and enter. This thug never thought that the police would uncover all the crimes he had committed on that chaotic night. And five months without any Stanley Cup riot arrests must have reinforced this notion. But he was wrong. Other rioters too are in for a rude awakening, as the Vancouver police are now ready to charge up to 700 people.
You may not have been anywhere near the riots on June 15th and so you don’t have to fear a call from the Vancouver police, but were you guilty of smashing someone’s reputation, looting minutes from your employer by conducting personal business on company time, and assaulting anyone who spoke to you about your sins that day? Who can remember? That was five months ago! God can and does remember...all of your sins. And here’s the thing. Sometime in the future, on Judgment Day, God will bring charges against you. The Apostle Paul says, “…there will be wrath and anger. 9 There will be trouble and distress for every human being who does evil” (Romans 2:8b, 9a). “Whew! You had me going there, Pastor. Paul says that God is going to be angry at those who do ‘evil.’ That’s not me.” Oh really? What makes you so certain that you’ll escape God’s wrath on Judgment Day? Let’s ponder that question with the help of our text from Romans 2.
So where did the police come up with the video footage of that Vancouver Island man? Much of it was shot by bystanders. Some was even taken by the rioters themselves. Don’t you suppose though that these people deleted any incriminating shots of themselves before turning in their tapes? That’s human nature and something that the original readers of our text were guilty of doing. They were certain that God was going to punish the pagans around them because they were full of greed, envy, and deceit. They were gossips, slanderers, and were arrogant and boastful. They disobeyed their parents, were heartless, and ruthless. And that was only the half of it (see a complete list in Romans 1:29-31). God is sure to punish people like that but Paul added this warning: “Now we know that God’s judgment against those who do such things is based on truth. 3 So when you, a mere man, pass judgment on them and yet do the same things, do you think you will escape God’s judgment?” (Romans 2:2, 3)
Like the Pharisee in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18), Paul’s listeners were quick to pounce on the sins of others while overlooking their own faults. I’m sure some Vancouver rioters will take the same approach. They may even admit to their crimes but will insist that those offenses at least weren’t as bad as what others had done. But that will be little consolation to the individual whose car was vandalized by that culprit. He’ll still expect the perpetrator to pay for the damage – even if it wasn’t as bad as the damage done to the car next to his. Likewise we may not be obvious sinners but if we are guilty of any sin, there is a price that must be paid: God’s eternal anger. Paul wrote: “God ‘will give to each person according to what he has done.’ 7 To those who by persistence in doing good seek glory, honor and immortality, he will give eternal life. 8 But for those who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil, there will be wrath and anger” (Romans 2:6-8).