Reflect The Light

Romans 2:5-16

In my last blog, we discussed how the Jews of Paul’s era sat in judgment over everyone else. They saw themselves as safe in their relationship with God, and that it was the Gentiles that had to worry about Hell, not them. The Jews saw that there were two sets of rules, one for Gentiles, and one for them. This background should stay in our minds as we continue through this chapter of Romans.

Romans 2:5 states that because of their (referring back to the Jews mentioned in the earlier verses) stubbornness they are storing up wrath against themselves. The idea here is that they are not free from judgment, but that judgment has been withheld from them for now. Basically, it is justice delayed, not justice adverted. Paul is applying the concept of wrath directly to the Jewish people, contrary to their common belief that wrath was for Gentiles only.

Paul continues this theme as he progresses through this diatribe. He quotes Psalm 62:12 and uses it to make the point that judgment is applied to each specific person. Israel as a corporate nation is God’s special nation, but each person is still held accountable for his or her own actions.

We covered this well in my last blog. In this blog, I want to pull a different idea out of this section. Paul makes several statements here about people that will get rewarded in the end. The first statement contains a word that most translations translate as persistence. Persistence is really too weak for this word. The word is used for a soldier that charges into battle with no care for his injuries. He may be mortally wounded, but he continues to fight until either victory or his death. [1] Paul goes on to say that these people that persist to the end seek after glory, honor, and immortality. Romans 2:10 continues this chain of thought and states that God will give them honor, glory, and peace.

Christians today can take something from this, the same things the Jews that were in the original group that received this letter. The first thing, as we mentioned last week, is to be careful that we do not get on a hypocritical judgmental throne and preach down at the non-Christians. This week’s text highlights another thing for us, that is, how we live and what our goals are in life.

My son and I had a conversation about this very thing when he was seven. He asked me if I wanted to be famous, and I said no. He said that he wanted to be famous. I asked him why and he said, “Because then the newspapers will write about you.”  I am not clear why that was a big deal, or where the connection came from. I suspect it was connected to the recent write up about a play that I was in over Easter that year. It focused on the star of the show and did not mention me at all, which I was happy for.

That is exactly what the world teaches, that the important thing in life is to become famous for something. It could be something good, like a new cure or something more morally neutral like a great sports accomplishment. Some will go for fame at any cost and do anything to stay in the spotlight. We see this in the music industry when a young lady makes a break into singing, she may start out modest, but over time becomes less and less so. This lust for fame fits perfectly with Romans 2:8’s comments about selfishness.

This is not the way it should be among Christians. I told my son that, no, I do not want to be famous, and that is the truth. If no one outside my family and friends ever remembers my name, I will be just as happy. He asked me why, and I told him, “Because I want to get out of the way and let God get the credit and the glory.” I am by no means perfect, nor do I ever want to cast myself in that light, but I do try and live a life that shines for Christ alone.

We can see a model of this in nature with the sun and the moon. The moon itself has no light at all; it is just a dead rock. A really big rock, but a dead rock nonetheless. Despite that lack of light, at night it illuminates the landscape like a massive flood light. A person with healthy eyes can easily walk by the light of the full moon. This light is merely a reflection of the sunlight, which we cannot see at night because the sun is on the other side of the world. If the Earth stopped spinning such that we never had another sunrise, the full moon would serve as a reminder that there is a sun, and that the sun provides light for the world.

Christians are to be like the moon; they are to seek after the things of Christ and seek to portray Christ to the world so that the world that cannot see the Son can be reminded that the Son does exist and that He loves them very much. If we are selfishly seeking our own fame and our own desires, we cannot do that. If the moon were to seek to be a light in and of itself somehow, you would never see the evidence of the sun at night. In the same way, a Christian who seeks to be famous so that they become the focus of attention eclipses the message of the Son.

Please do not get the wrong idea. Many have become famous for being that light, and many more will in the future. The question we must ask ourselves if we are on the road to fame, is: “Why are we on that road?” Are we on that road because we love the attention, or is it a consequence of doing our best for Christ? If it is the latter, then great! If not, then we need to get off the road and find a new trail to blaze.

[1] Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans (Grand Rapids, Mich.; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 116.

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