28And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. 29They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, 31foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32They know God's decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die - yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.
1Therefore you have no excuse, whoever you are, when you judge others; for in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, are doing the very same things. 2You say, "We know that God's judgment on those who do such things is in accordance with truth." 3Do you imagine, whoever you are, that when you judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself, you will escape the judgment of God? 4Or do you despise the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God's kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5But by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath, when God's righteous judgment will be revealed. 6For he will repay according to each one's deeds: 7to those who by patiently doing good seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life; 8while for those who are self-seeking and who obey not the truth but wickedness, there will be wrath and fury. 9There will be anguish and distress for everyone who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek, 10but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek. 11For God shows no partiality.
The wrath of God/the judgment of God points to one sure reality: that God is the One to whom we will give account, of how we've lived. Every human life is consequential, consequential in terms of impact on others and consequential in terms of what will happen to us on the day of judgment.
The general statement the Apostle Paul is underscoring in this passage is that no one is free from the judgment of God, reminding especially those who think they are better than others (see Rom. 2:1). In many of these passages in Romans, Paul will strike the extreme notes in order to highlight what is being offered in Jesus.
The judgment of God on the wickedness of humanity and the allowance of God on humanity to live out their depravity are set on one side to throw into sharp relief what is now taking place in Jesus Christ: that God's kindness is being revealed. That God's mercy is offered. The theological picture is not complete until God's kindness and mercy are brought in, in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The extremes are true! We are sinners -- really terrible sinners if truth be told! We don't know how depraved we are, without God's grace. We are fearful, evil, selfish, full of pride and self-delusions, at the same time self-loathing and despairing, unable to look at God, unable to worship God in spirit and in truth. We are ugly.
That is one side. The other side -- the other extreme -- is true as well. This other side not only balances out the ugly, sinful side, but this other, grace-filled side actually tilts the balance. It's not like we are 50% bad and 50% good. It's more like we were 100% sinful and now we are 100% loved and redeemed. The sin part of our identity has been crucified (as we anticipate Romans in later sections). The redeemed part of our identity (which is 100%) is our true identity. And out of that basis, we are called to live, knowing that God's kindness always leads us to repentance.
In order to appreciate the grace of God that is being offered in the gospel of Jesus Christ, we need to recognize our hopeless condition before hearing the gospel. We were objects of God's wrath, in bondage to our depravity, with no hope for a life of true freedom, joy, and love.
But, thanks be to God, that Jesus found us!
May the kindness and mercy of God root your soul and mind and spirit today!