The majority of the time we (and by we, I mean me) typically think of how we are right and how we have been wronged by others. When we focus on others, we find their faults. The reality is Christ is asking us to do the opposite: to find our own faults. Right there it is in Romans 2:1, “You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge another, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things.” Then there’s Romans 2:21, “you, then, who teach others, do you not teach yourself? You who preach against stealing, do you steal?” Finding fault with self — not others — seems to be a common theme here in the beginning chapters of Romans.
I’ve known for as long as I’ve had any concept of Christ that I am a sinner. It is a basic principle of the Christian faith that we are all sinners and admit this. But somewhere in my mind I viewed sinners in categories. My guess is I’m not alone. In fact, it becomes apparent this is a common mindset as I read social media, watch the news, and have conversations in a variety of situations. Before I was aware that I was doing this, my conversations centered around what other people were doing, were saying, or were thinking. It was “sad” or “upsetting” or “disappointing” or “pathetic” that someone was sinning. I would become angry as I saw others sin — especially if it was a sin against me or my loved ones. And then there were the times I felt obligated to point out others’ imperfections and try to humiliate or shame them to more holiness.
But there it is in Romans 1. A list of sins….mind you, it’s not exhaustive, but it’s a great example of the variety of flavors our godlessness comes in. “They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy.” Verses 29-31.
Murder, malice, God-haters…..okay, those people are really, really big sinners. You’re a murderer, that’s a one way ticket to hell. It’s a total given that they are so out of God’s plan, nothing good can come from them. They are evil, wicked. Ooh….gossips? Um…..that must mean like gossips like people spreading rumors that really hurt others. You know, the kind of rumors that break up marriages, cause people to lose their jobs. Not like the kind of stuff I share with my friends around a coffee break. Mine isn’t gossip. It’s facts. True information. That’s different. Wait…..what? It’s not different? You mean that verse…..that “they” is really about “me”? Wait, no it’s about us. All of us. And we’re all lumped into the same category.
Don’t get me wrong. As Christians I don’t think we can have an anything goes attitude. I think we are sometimes called upon to call out sin in the world around us. However, I think we have to be careful in doing so. We have to do it with a spirit of humility and acknowledging our sin is no better or worse than our neighbors. We have to be careful not to call out celebrities, politicians, and neighbors on social media as one step away from the Antichrist or as on a path to Hell. When we look at other’s flaws and shortcomings, we have to do so with a spirit of mercy and grace. Perhaps we should reach out with opened arms rather than pointed fingers. Because Paul is very clear in this section that the more we point our fingers at other’s sins, the more likely we are to have them pointed back at us.