What do you do when you feel the anxiety and the pain and the stress of condemnation from people? Other people can sure be condemning, can’t they? Maybe you have a family member, a co-worker, or a classmate that is like that. They might even be a church member, someone you would call a friend, and they have a condemning attitude. Some people have that look on their face on a regular basis. Some have it in the words they choose, in their outlook on life, in the tone of their voice. Condemnation. How do you handle condemnation? It’s very difficult, isn’t it?
This week on the blog we are studying Romans 8 to learn how the Easter message of resurrection helps us have hope when we are feeling separated and condemned.
At the beginning of Romans chapter 8, notice what Paul writes in verses 1-2.
There is no condemnation anymore! Because of Jesus we can be set free from condemnation. What does Paul say condemns us? He calls it “the law of sin and death.” If we haven’t been set free, we are still under the condemnation of the law of sin and death.
It is especially wonderful to know that God does not take a tone of condemnation toward us. I was recently talking to a pastoral colleague who mentioned that a longtime member of his church left the church because my pastor friend who would not preach hellfire and brimstone sermons. It boggles my mind that some people want to communicate God as a condemning God. My pastor friend took the right approach, refusing to communicate God that way, because God is love.
Some people have responded, “Yeah, but God is also just.” I understand that. Yes, Jesus called people to repent of their sins, and change their lives. But his posture and tone was loving and kind, and his message was, “Believe in me and follow me.” The disciples and followers of Jesus who would write the books of the Bible called the New Testament, wrote about God as a loving God, a forgiving God, a merciful God, over and over. This is why Jesus told the story of the Prodigal Son, who after living a reckless, selfish life, came to his senses and returned to his father. And his father welcomed him with open arms. The father in that story is a picture of God the father opening his arms to us.
In Romans 8, Paul does an excellent job balancing the love and justice of God. In verses 5-17, he makes a great case for why we should turn away from a sinful life.
In the Easter season, we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus because of how we can experience God’s resurrection power in our lives to turn away from sin. That’s why this passage is incredibly hopeful. It reminds us that because of Jesus’ death and resurrection, the way has been opened up for us to become part of God’s family. Paul uses the metaphor of death and life to describe this.
Before we are part of God’s family, it is as though we are dead. But when we become part of God’s family, it is as though we have been given new life, just as Jesus was dead and rose again to new life. Notice especially verses 11-12. There Paul emphasizes that when God’s Spirit is at work in our lives, God’s new life is flowing through us, and one of the primary ways we change is that we no longer live according to the old sinful way of life. There is a new and better way, the way of Jesus.
But living the way of Jesus, and turning away from the way of sinfulness, doesn’t mean that life will become perfect. People will still be people and mistreat us. Sometimes we will give in to temptation, and we will face the consequences of our sin.
Paul has a response for that reality of suffering, and we’ll talk about that in the next post.