“The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities – his eternal power and divine nature – have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. For 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 mortal man and birds and animals and reptiles” (Romans 1: 18-23 NIV).
No Wonder God is Upset
This passage is quite fascinating as an insight into the human condition from God’s point of view. We have already talked about the fact that evil is relational and that our godlessness results in wickedness. In other words, the moment that Adam and Eve decided to cut God out of their lives (“godlessness”), and took upon themselves the power to decide good and evil, it resulted in all kinds of problems (“wickedness”). Cain kills Abel and it gets worse from there. Dictators rise. People starve. Wars rage. Women and children are abused. Not what God had in mind for his people.
Let’s take a look for a moment at what it takes to be the one who decides what is good and what is evil. The question is whether or not we humans are even capable of making those kinds of decisions on our own. I’m not talking about shutting down our brain and doing no thinking at all. Of course God wants us to participate in the world, in decision-making, in planning and direction and all of that good stuff. He loves us and wants us to learn and grow and explore this world that He made for us. He told Adam that already in the garden. That was always the idea. But not alone. Never alone. In fact, that would be disasterous. How can you be “alone” from God? He is the creator after all. You may be able to break off your relationship with him but to be truly alone (or even mostly alone) would put you in a place you do not want to go. Believe me.
The idea was always to be in relationship with our Father and Creator. And only He has the ability to make final decisions on what is good and what is evil for us. After all, in order to know what is good or bad you would have to know the future consequences of your actions. Lord, should we invent aerosol cans? They seem quite handy. No, my child. Aerosol cans will destroy the ozone layer in about 50 years. Good to know. Thanks, Lord. We really dodged a bullet on that one.
You get the idea. And it isn’t only about knowing the future but also about knowing all possible repercussions of our actions. Omniscience is essential to get things right. What about power? Some things are just too powerful for us to play with if we are on our own. Like nuclear bombs. Splitting the atom. Creating viruses. Being almighty, God can handle it but the rest of us, on our own? It’s a crap shoot. Japan had the first taste of it and most of us doubt that it will be the last.
God is omniscient, knowing all possible consequences and especially knowing the future. God is almighty, meaning that he can handle anything that goes wrong or is out of our ability to handle. God is omnipresent, meaning that he is everywhere at the same time and can take care of, protect and help each one of us individually as well as collectively. You start to see the idea.
But the most important aspect of the Godhead is the fact that He is good. Absolutely good. Full of love and justice and never self-seeking at the expense of others. There is no blemish in Him. Only He is capable of determining what is good and what is evil, what promotes love and what does not promote love for everyone, without discrimination, because He is love.
We are not. The very act of taking this power to decide on our own what is good or evil for us was a selfish betrayal of the one who loves us the most. What hope is there that we would ever get it right? Sure, sometimes we stumble upon some true truth and we make a right decision but history is replete with examples of where we have screwed up horribly, on purpose or by accident because we refuse to allow God to lead us into the future He has planned for us following the path of love. Only God is capable of knowing and acting upon what is good and what is evil.
But that is the heart of “godlessness and wickedness.” Because we have cut God out of our lives (or we try to at least), we find ourselves living wicked (unloving) lives towards God and towards others. No wonder God is upset.
I was talking with one of my students this morning about this very topic. He even admitted to me at one point that it would be impossible for us, as humans, to understand all the variables that are the consequence of our decisions. We simply aren’t smart enough. I told him that that was exactly true. We can’t see the future. We don’t have all the information, even with our supercomputers. We don’t know the ripple effect of the decisions we make in the lives of other people.
So, he used that as an excuse to say that is why we have to think only about ourselves and how our decisions affect us and our loved ones. As long as we don’t intend to hurt anyone and don’t break the law, we should be fine. And there, right there, is the difference between God and us. God is concerned about everyone. We are concerned only about ourselves and our loved ones. God is love. We are not. A little bit for a few people but that’s it.
Yes, I told him. God’s standards are much higher than our standards. In fact, we can’t fulfill God’s standards without God’s help. We need to reverse the problem. Instead of cutting God out of our lives (godlessness), we need to re-establish our relationship with Him so that He can help us understand the consequences of our actions and be the one who decides what is right and what is wrong. That’s His job and He is good. He loves everyone and is concerned about everything. So He is the only one qualified to get the job done right.
That is why God is so upset. We have not only made a mess of things but we are destroying each other and the environment, our home. And the mistakes we are making have eternal consequences. If God loves us, He should be upset. It would make no sense if He wasn’t.
The Desert Warrior
P.S. Let’s talk to God….
Lord, thank you for being upset with our godlessness. It doesn’t come from selfishness on your part, but rather love. You can see the effects of wickedness that it has created and you tremble at the eternal repercussions of our rebellion. Hell is no picnic and your word says that you desire everyone to be saved. Lord, save us from our own folly, I pray. Thank you for your wrath and your anger at our sin. Thank you that your justice is good and right and is for our own good. Thank you that your love found a way to save us from your justice so that we can have a new relationship with you. Teach us to live under your guidance in knowing what is good and what is evil. We don’t want to be godless anymore. We want to learn from you, O Lord. In your name I pray. Amen.