Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Blogging Through Romans: Romans 2: 12-16

Romans 2: 12-16

This section is an aside, a parenthetical comment between the previous section (chapter 2: 1-11) and the next one (chapter 2: 7-29).

When Paul says later in the letter, “there is no distinction, for all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” (3: 22-33) he's repeating this section. There is no distinction between the Gentiles who broke the “law written on their hearts” and the Jews who live “under the law” knowing full well what God requires of them. Paul is saying whether you are a Jew or Gentile, you have broken the covenant God made with you.

Paul could be responding to a church fight between Jews and Gentiles. Each of them believing the other has sinned more robustly than they have. Jews were bragging about how well they kept God's Law, the Law of Moses, and the Gentiles were boasting about how free they were, and living how they wanted.

We see this playing out in our churches, especially within the ELCIC. Some folks see themselves as defenders of doctrine, protecting the historic faith (as they define it) that they believe has arrived at our doorstep untarnished by centuries of preaching.

Others see themselves as liberationists, emancipating the bible texts from 2000 years of cultural interpretation, allowing the bible to breath after being constrained so long under the tyranny of authoritarian Christian leaders.

But Paul is saying “You're BOTH wrong. You BOTH sinned. In fact, your fight is sinful. No one is better than the other.”

I hate it when Paul makes this argument. I'd rather be better than the other guy. I'd rather look down my nose at those hurting God's church.

But Paul tells me to take a breath, suck it up, and remember that we are ALL under the same sentence of condemnation.