Scripture Reading: Romans 2:1-16, Deuteronomy 16:18-20, Titus 1:15
Head shaking, brow furrowed, she looked perplexed. Confusion filled her dark brown eyes. “I don’t understand,” she said.
I explained further. “The Chinese and Japanese character used to translate ‘sin’ is the word zui, which means ‘crime.’”
She nodded and motioned for me to continue.
“I think that translation can be somewhat limiting. I imagine you haven’t really spent time in jail or committed a crime like robbing a bank. I imagine you consider yourself a pretty good person.”
She nodded again.
“I used to think of myself as a pretty good person, too” I said. “But then someone asked, if a movie were made of my life, if there were certain scenes I’d want deleted. I knew exactly which scenes I didn’t want anyone to see. And these scenes were not just of the times I did things I knew I shouldn’t, but also when I didn’t do things I knew I should. Our sin problem shows itself in both ways—in the things we do and the things we don’t do. We all sin. No one lives a life free of scenes they wouldn’t want others to see.”
Paul goes to great lengths in the first three chapters of Romans to help us understand the totality and consequences of our sin. He lists the manifestations of sin at the end of chapter one, then goes on to explain how his readers not only judge others, but also practice the very things for which they pass judgment.
And it’s true: most of us consider ourselves “good” people, qualified to judge others for their many shortcomings—that is, until we place our own sin-plagued lives next to Christ’s righteousness. Jesus is the only one who lived a perfect, God-honoring, shame-free life.
Both Jews and Gentiles—and both you and I—fall short under God’s holy judgment. We are all guilty, often of the very same things for which we condemn others. But there is good news:
For God loved the world in this way. He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life.
- John 3:16
We are born spiritually dead, our sin separating us from a life with God. But God, in the person of Jesus Christ, has made a way for us to know Him, both in this earthly life and for all eternity (John 17:3).
Just as God Himself provides the way for us to be reconciled to Him, He also does the work of revealing to us our sin—of showing us how our “goodness” falls short of His righteousness. The Holy Spirit does the convicting (John 16:8), which frees us to love and to speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
In Romans, Paul writes systematically to knock away our sense of ever being righteous in and of ourselves. God’s invitation is not to mere ethics or manufactured goodness, but to the utter, complete transformation that takes place when we are made new in Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17).
May God melt away our pride that keeps us from total dependence on Him. By His grace, may we love others, even as they fall short like we also do. And may we recognize and receive God’s kindness that leads us to repentance. Amen.
Vivian Mabuni is a speaker and author, and a sushi, white Christmas lights, post-its, and coffee-with-friends lover. She has been on staff with Cru (formerly Campus Crusade for Christ) for 28 years and serves with Epic Movement, the Asian American ministry of Cru. Connect with Vivian on Twitter and Instagram at @vivmabuni.