Romans 1 It Is All About Idolatry
We continue our study of the challenging epistle of Romans. Paul calls us repeatedly in his letters to live more and more like Jesus to share our faith to help one another and to shed our old ways and adopt our new creation in Christ. Paul is brash, vivid, and clear in his writing in the last section of the first chapter. He says that life without God results in death and sin leads only to more sin. Not once does Paul say God punishes us. He does say that it is our actions, words, and thoughts that cause our misery by not doing what it is true we live a lie, which leads to affliction.
Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator. (Romans 1:21-25)
Paul doesn’t say that God is angry. He says that the actions we take lead to suffering, misery, and destruction. He is saying here that if you do this it will lead to this. If we ignore God and trade the eternal for man-made things, we will lose who we really are adrift without an anchor to hold us in place. We will be rootless finding life hard and unrewarding. If we worship not God but our own puny selves, we are doomed to trade a lie for the truth and praise things not worthy of our praise.
This is about idolatry.
It’s about making man into god and ignoring the true living God. Jesus called out the religious elite because they exchanged God for human traditions. So, Paul called out those who do this then and he calls us out of our desire to repackage God into something we can capture in human words and ideas. God is more, much more than any human words could ever describe. No human words will ever capture God in all His awesome glory. I don’t care for any human created god. This god is too, too small for my needs for our needs. We need the transcendent, wild, surprising God of Jesus. The God who loves us with incredible, amazing, boundless, unconditional, fierce grace, this God transforms us into the hands and feet of Jesus in this world to his glory. This God the God of Jesus does not ask us to clean ourselves up and perform cleansing rituals before we come and see. This God calls us into life with and through Him.
We worship this God not by pointing fingers or coming up with complex systems, but by loving and serving our neighbor by living fully, and joining communities that include and honor differences than excluding and forcing others to conform to our idea of what someone should be. We praise this God by growing into the person God created us to be to becoming all we can and should be through and in Christ.
Here is one of the texts used to exclude a certain group of our society. I knew I would have to reflect on it, so here goes.
God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. In the same way, the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. (Romans 1:26-27)
Some understand this as a text saying homosexuality is wrong. Some people use this and the verses from Leviticus to point out how God is against homosexuals. I say no. God loves everyone no matter what! The way Jesus lived his life should be enough to prove this point. The bible should not be used to point fingers at others or bar anyone anywhere from the love and grace of God found in Jesus Christ.
So, what is this text saying?
One commentary I read did not mention homosexuality once in connection to this verse. The commentator mentioned divorce and men and women who have multiple partners who use sex for personal gain. So, one could easily point out all the ways men and women abuse themselves and others through relationships and sex. Sex is not seen as the beautiful celebration of love and life that it is. Too often, we look at what we can get out of another person not what we can give to the other person. We want to use the other person as a commodity and not see the other person as a holy creation of a holy God. That is what I think Paul is talking about that we misuse and abuse each other to get what we want trading lies for the truth.
Homosexuality is not wrong or as I recently heard someone say demonic. I am more apt to say it is a gift from God. I say that if you were born that way than you should learn to live with your orientation as healthy, loving, and graciously as you can. We should all no matter our sexual orientation learn to live us fully realized loving God honoring Christ centered humble human beings. This means we should love ourselves finding ways to love and serve our neighbor not for any reward, but because that is how life is meant to be lived.
Now, if I were to start a same sex relationship it would be wrong. I was not born that way. I like the ladies. I want to build a healthy, loving, sane, happy life with a woman who gets me yet challenges me to be all that I can be. I pray that each of us can find the same if it be with someone of the same sex than I am happy for you. I also believe that our relationships should not be about our puny self, but should be the tool by which we bring a little more love and happiness to the other person in particular and to our society in general. I believe that any and every relationship can and should honor God. That human relationships point us to our relationship with God.
I don’t have this text nailed and never will. I will study it and the rest of the bible more and more. I will study the bible for the rest of my life and still when I shuffle off this mortal coil will not truly understand any bit of it. That is what makes the bible true, alive, wonderful, and beautiful. It continues to speak to us.