This will take place on the day when God judges people’s secrets through Jesus Christ, as my gospel declares.
This is a chilling passage. Deep within the heart of man is a desire to look good. We want to be respected, liked, loved and honored. It may look different for different people. Not everyone exhibits narcissism at the Hollywood level, but we all have it.
Those desires, while not inherently bad, can lead us to some bad conclusions. Because we want to look good for people, we learn to put on a front. We learn to act. We learn to lie. And the mother of all those lies?
Religion is the practicing of our faith. It is what people see externally of an internal set of values. Unfortunately, that externality can be manipulated, and for most people who have walked planet earth, it is.
In the first part of Romans Two, Paul tears down the people who just felt smugly self-righteous after reading chapter one. He spoke about horrible, wretched, sinful pagans who practiced all manners of sexual debauchery, theft and murder. He then addresses those smugly smiling because they have not participated in those kinds of acts.
Paul tells them, and us today, that we who think we can judge those who have participated in the worst form of debauchery are in bad shape. It is an easy thing to judge the external. When wickedness is external and open, it is no challenge for anyone to wag their finger. But Paul turns the table on his would-be self-righteous crowd.
He tells us that on the day of judgment before Jesus, we will not be judged by what we showed to everyone else, but by the secrets we kept. Men see what we want them to see. Jesus sees what we keep hidden.
What Is Seen Counts
That leaves us no religious wiggle-room. Paul even goes so far to say that those who don’t know right from wrong, but act as if they did, are better off than those who know right from wrong and secretly disobey, while making it look like they’re walking the straight and narrow path.
This is what makes Christianity different, and it is what makes it impossible to fake, because we are only faking before God.
I have heard many stories of Muslim men murdering Christian men and then gang-raping their wives and daughters in the name of Allah, looked on with approval from their Imams. I have asked myself the question, how could men do what is not allowed in Islam and then be praised for it? How could these men do such a wicked thing if they had not already participated in such debauchery in the shadows of their lives?
But Islam is an externally-oriented religion. Only what is seen counts. For most Christians, there is no difference. Most Christians live like it is only what is seen that matters. While self-righteously wagging their fingers at the horrible wickedness around them, they secretly participate while no one is watching in some form or fashion.
Paul’s words, my paraphrase. Romans Chapter Two.
I’m not trying to guilt-trip you or convince you that you are a bad person. I’m trying to convince you that you are a much worse person than you think you are. Wretched, in fact.
We need Jesus. We need His sacrifice. We need His intervention on our behalf. Unless there is some redemption for us, we will all meet God one day and have our secrets exposed, and no one is without secrets for which we would rightly be condemned. This is the gospel that Paul speaks of in Romans Two. The “good news” that our external and secret sins can be atoned for.
The hidden agenda in Romans Two is not to stop judging those found guilty in Romans One. We’re human, and it isn’t possible to judge others for their external actions. No, the not-so-hidden agenda in Romans Two is to call those who consider themselves righteous to look at what they have judged and then do a little self-examination.
Instead of saying, “Aren’t they bad,” we should be asking, “In what ways am I like that?” When we convince ourselves that we are righteous because of our actions, we forget that one day we will meet the exposer of secrets.
When we choose to ask the one who knows our secrets what He thinks of them and us, then and only then can we begin to rid ourselves of them.
23Search me, O God, and know my heart;
Try me, and know my anxieties;
24And see if there is any wicked way in me,
And lead me in the way everlasting.
This is the prayer of a Christian, one who has been redeemed by Jesus. We no longer fear our secrets, but we choose to offer them up to the one who knows them anyway. No man will ever know that we did this. It won’t make us look better to others. It won’t make us look more religious or spiritual, but it is the only thing we have to offer the one who has already redeemed us from the secrets we keep.
But oh, the power and freedom that comes from not being bound by secrets.