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The Tension I Welcome

There are times I read something that gets my attention because it bothers me, which is what happened this morning when I read 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.” This thought bothered me because the balance between having a righteous standard to live by and a compassionate heart of grace toward people has always been difficult to maintain. I am fully convinced that we are “saved by grace through faith alone.” (Ephesians 2:8-9) I wholeheartedly believe that “apart from Christ we can do nothing.” (John 15:5) These verses motivate me to be patient, forgiving, and hopeful that even the most unruly and selfish among us can find hope and eternal life in Christ.
At the same time, I have deep convictions about the values that should shape our lives. I am passionate about protecting my family against evil influences and manipulative schemes of unrighteous people. When public policy or private decisions are made that endanger my loved ones or threaten the stability of the environment in which they must operate, a fierce competitiveness arises within me. It is extremely difficult at those times to be compassionate toward the ones who are representing what is dangerous to the most important people in my life.
Also, at the same time, I realize I am no better than the people I oppose. I am deeply aware of my own imperfections. I live with the nagging curiosity that my own righteousness falls well short of my own expectations. It is easy to fall into the trap of not commenting on the behavior and decisions of others since “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) And yet, if we don’t speak out, chaos can emerge as those “who are self-seeking and who reject the truth and follow evil” (Romans 2:8) set the pace for our society.
It will be an ongoing discussion to keep the balance but here is what I have found helpful so far in my journey:
Life is primarily a matter of the heart. When my heart is right, I do things that are right. When my heart is wrong, I do things that are wrong. We, therefore, need to address the needs of the heart constantly. Paul courageously did this at the end of chapter 2, “. . . and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.” (v. 29) When an individual’s heart is cut open and revealed to God’s mercy, truth, authority, and majesty, he will respond with humility, sincerity, and diligent adherence to whatever will help the relationship thrive. Our primary message must be to soften hearts before God.
A value system based on truth and humility is the only way to keep unrighteousness in check while we wait and hope for people’s hearts to soften. Without Christ, foolishness will grip a person’s mind and will. They will think and do unimaginable things and then call them right. If there is a not a system in place to reign in the effects of this foolishness, people will be ruined by their own freedom. It is simply a substitute for the real answer that allows us to live together in harmony but it is a necessary element in a society of imperfect, unredeemed people.
I welcome the tension because my goal is to be a person of righteousness who never loses his compassion for a world of people who need to know my Savior.

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One Response

  1. You are so right, Bill. I have often interpreted the scripture about speaking the “truth in love” to be speaking the truth in “humility,” because a humble heart keeps my tendency to be “always right” (as I point out truth to others) in righteous check.

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