As we mentioned yesterday, it is easy to judge, berate, and damn the sin outside our doors, but in so doing we are not judging as the Bible tells us to judge. We are to use the same measure for others that we do for ourselves. We are to search ourselves as vigorously and more vigorously than we search others. There were many noble heathen and moral Jews who would have gladly jumped on St. Paul’s bandwagon in the previous verses. He could have been elected in the ancient red states will little trouble. Yet, that is not what St. Paul wanted. Moral reform was not his chief goal, or really a goal at all, because moral reform can be carried out as well with the Koran or the congress as it can with the Bible. Paul didn’t want reform. He wanted renewal, worked through the gospel. In order for the gospel to work renewal, however, one has to see his or her need for rebirth. The self-righteous pagan or Jew saw no need, because they were the moral dream team of the day. Why have a Savior if you have the sin thing under control yourself? May God keep us from falling this same moralistic and Pharisaical trap, and may God forgive us for when we have!
This is not the only trap that lies in wait for believers, however. We can also be tempted to the other extreme. Rather than taking pride in our moral superiority, we may be tempted to delve into the pool of sin that surrounds us when it seems that God takes sin lightly, because he has not yet punished those around us for their sins and, in fact, at times even seems to prosper them. We can make the mistake of thinking God’s delay is an expression of his apathy instead of his kindness. God is patient, not wanting any to perish, hoping to lead the lost to repentance in his kindness. May God keep us from falling into this presumptuous and ill-advised trap, from thinking of the sins of others as fun we are missing out on, rather than damnable wickedness that God has kept us from in his grace, and may God forgives us for when we have!
We have all stored up wrath for the day of God’s judgment. We are all by nature objects of wrath and have confirmed that status with our numerous misdeeds. We are as lost as our neighbor and are as weak in the face of temptation as well. We dare not judge them as if we ourselves could not fall in the same way. We dare not join them as if God has ceased caring about the enforcement of his law. We will be judged. His law will be enforced. But the Lord is patient and kind, and he has given us a time of grace, and he has called us to repent, and he has promised us forgiveness in his Son, taking away our sins as we confess them, giving us his Son’s righteousness as we confess him. God is patient. God is kind. Turn to him, and escape the judgment you so rightly deserve, and receive the salvation you have not deserved, but Christ has deserved for you, and freely gives to you through the gift of faith he himself works through preaching and the Sacraments.