Daily Bible Reading: Romans 1-2

[28] Since they thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned them to their foolish thinking and let them do things that should never be done. [29] Their lives became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. [30] They are backstabbers, haters of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. They invent new ways of sinning, and they disobey their parents. [31] They refuse to understand, break their promises, are heartless, and have no mercy. [32] They know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet they do them anyway. Worse yet, they encourage others to do them, too. ​Romans 1:28-32 NLT
This is a paragraph I both like and dislike at the same time. I like it because of the truth found within it. It accurately describes our human nature and the problem we have in our relationship with God.
I also like it because I can read it and feel good about myself, while placing blame for the problems of the world in the laps of other people. Note the use of the words ‘they’ and ‘their.’ It implies this isn’t personal. It is all of those other people who cause problems, not me. I can read this paragraph and point my finger at everyone around me. (I don’t even have to look very hard to identify the flaws in the people I see around me.)
My human nature likes this, which is exactly why I dislike this paragraph. If I were to read it out of context, I could think Paul is substantiating my preferred belief that I am basically a good person and everyone else is sinful. However this is not what Paul means. The rest of his letter makes it clear that he is not writing only about ‘them,’ but also includes ‘us.’ Ouch.
Perhaps it would be better if we read this paragraph from a first person point of view. Try this:
Since I thought it foolish to acknowledge God, he abandoned me to my foolish thinking and let me do things that should never be done. My life became full of every kind of wickedness, sin, greed, hate, envy, murder, quarreling, deception, malicious behavior, and gossip. I am a backstabber, hater of God, insolent, proud, and boastful. I invent new ways of sinning, and I disobey my parents. I refuse to understand, break my promises, am heartless, and have no mercy. I know God’s justice requires that those who do these things deserve to die, yet I do them anyway. Worse yet, I encourage others to do them, too.
From this perspective, I can recognize that God’s grace, God’s unmerited favor, is available to all who need it. And I need it as much as anyone else. I am thankful for God’s love and grace for me.