Behavior that defies God
Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
This is the picture of the modern and postmodern worlds of moral relativism that function without moral restraints because they distort evil as good. Even though “they know God’s righteous decree” they violate it.
Such a person is not acting in ignorance. He is disregarding his conscience. He knows the right thing and chooses not to do it.
It’s important to note that this indictment does not apply to all human sin. There is unethical and even immoral human behavior which is rooted in ignorance. For example, Paul wrote to Timothy, “Even though I was once a blasphemer and a persecutor and a violent man, I was shown mercy because I acted in ignorance and unbelief” (1Tim 1:13 NIV). As a devout member of the Jewish nation, Paul was convinced his persecution of Christians was pleasing to God. Only after he met Christ on the road to Damascus did Paul see the light (literally and figuratively).
Jesus spoke of this behavior pattern when he told his disciples, “They will put you out of the synagogues. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (John 16:2 ESV).
But in his letter to the Romans, Paul speaks of those who knowingly transgress, who contravene the decrees of God with a bold face.
They also know there are consequences for their rebellious behavior. “They know … that those who do such things deserve death.” Yet they continue to choose their libertine lifestyles.
Behavior that defies God is dangerous indeed
They not only do the evil themselves, they justify themselves by giving approval of others who do the same thing.
As Proverbs 2:13-15 says, “From those who leave the paths of uprightness to walk in the ways of darkness; who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil; whose paths are crooked, and who are devious in their ways; there is no shame, no apology, and no sense of guilt or responsibility.”
Eugene H. Peterson’s paraphrase The Message captures the flagrant attitude and actions in these words: They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!
The paganism that resulted from the fall had consequences in sexual perversion. God’s good gift of human sexuality was corrupted. The nations of the world were infected with paganism. But the effect of Judeo-Christian Theism, wherever it took root, was a return to a worship of the creator God and a high view of man, marriage and the family.
Now, alas, we are reverting to paganism. The sexual revolution is a manifestation of pagan worship. The pagan sexuality that Paul describes here in Romans and that we see increasingly and dramatically in our world today is a manifestation of our idolatry and hardness of heart. Thankfully there is a cure more powerful than the disease. The blood of Christ can soften the heart and restore the soul to life. Unless we repent, the barbarism of the past is the world of our future. If we repent, our lives can be substantially restored to what God intended: a vibrant and beautiful human sexuality within the framework of a loving, covenantal marriage between a woman and a man.
We have come to the end of our series, unpacking Paul’s powerful analysis of the importance of worldview in shaping not only how we see the world, but also the kind of lives we live and the kind of communities we create. We have witnessed that God is angry with us because we suppress the truth, truth that is clearly revealed to all human beings through God’s creation. Instead of falling on our knees in worship of the living God, we exchange the truth of God for a lie. We worship and serve created things – pagan Humanism and pagan Animism.
And with the change of worship came the change in value system. And the change in values leads to a change in behavior. As we return to pagan worship we return to pagan practices. This is the stark reality of the opening of the 21st century.
We who call ourselves Christ followers need to do some soul searching. We need a time of repentance. Following repentance, we must not abandon our societies, but reengage them.
This begins by recognizing Paul’s powerful emphasis that ideas have consequences. That includes recognizing that both on a personal level and a national level, to exchange truth for a lie, to worship and serve created things rather than the Creator, will lead to the breakdown of the family and ultimately the destruction of society.
Let us return to our first love, to worship and serve our Creator and Lord.
– Darrow Miller