I tried to avoid adding to the rat’s nest of articles and opinions surrounding the VMA performance of Miley Cyrus and Robin Thicke, but my reading today in Romans brought the issue to the forefront of my mind. I’m not going to comment on the level of morality in the VMA performance, nor will I make any psychologically unfounded guesses as to the cause or reasoning behind the behavior. As I’ve said in a previous post, I’m not too keen on making judgements about someone I haven’t had a conversation with. What I’m more interested in is how Christians react to sin in other people. More specifically, why is it that so many folks who engage in everyday run-of-the-mill sins feel so free to make judgements on the morality of someone on a TV screen? Yes, we ought to find sin offensive if we are going to presume to follow a God who finds sin offensive. But lately, a lot of cyber-stones being thrown by folks who seem to have forgotten that we’re all guilty of something.
Maybe, even on a subconscious level, some of us feel that just because we didn’t personally get on stage and permanently ruin teddy bears for everyone, that God has given us a free pass on our less-noticed, more socially accepted sins. So today, let’s look at the mirror instead of the TV.
In America, many Christians tend to worship the god that they’ve fabricated from years of rationalizing sin. This is the god that looks the other way when imperfect people sin. This is the god that has blurred lines of morality, bent to the specific circumstances of the individual. These people don’t want a god they have to fear. They want a god who gets them out of trouble and takes a passive approach to dealing with sin – because after all, natural consequences of poor decisions must be sufficient punishment, right?
But this is the god they created. This is not the God that created them.
The one true and living God is a God that, like it or not, gets angry. But the sooner a person can come to grips with this aspect of our creator, the sooner he/she can understand two of the most important concepts in the Bible: the gravity of sin, and the gravity of Jesus’ sacrifice.
Here are some realities about God’s anger that we need to understand:
God’s anger is a necessary result of His love.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven…” (Romans 1:18a, ESV)
Everything God says and does is consistent with His character. in 1 John 4:8, we read that God is love. If God is to remain true to His character, then naturally, He must hate anything that is harmful to that which He loves, which is humanity. Just spend five minutes in Walmart, and you will see that nobody respects a parent for choosing not to discipline and exercise some amount of authority over her children, letting them run wild. Parents such as this one are labeled as negligent, not loving. People say “that poor little girl has nobody to teach her right from wrong.” Therefore, our God is not a passive pushover of a father, but rather a loving creator who exercises deliberate, just, and measured wrath. He is the proud parent who steps in to correct us (Proverbs 3:11-12). It is a necessary expression of His character and love for His creation.
God’s anger is a necessary result of our sinfulness.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them.” (Romans 1:18-19, ESV)
Here, Paul uses two words that have quite a bit of meaning behind them: asebeia (ungodliness), and adikia (unrighteousness). The Greek word sebeia simply means “reverence toward God, or godliness.” But the addition of the a- prefix negates this trait, giving it the characteristic of the opposite: “non-reverence.” In Paul’s usage of “ungodliness” here, there is actually an element of contempt in the word, rather than the simple absence of godliness. He adds to this the word adikia, which, in this case, refers to the violation of the Law of Moses. This divine law was handed down to the nation of Israel as an expression of God’s very character. So, for example, if God were merciless, then tyranny and cruelty would be “good.” But, as we see in Psalm 116, God is kind and merciful. Therefore, to show a lack of mercy and to be cruel is sinful. Paul’s usage of these words indicates that ungodliness and unrighteousness aren’t just a simple lack of good behavior, but an arrogant, outright rejection of God’s character and His authority over all creation.
God’s anger is a necessary result of our foolishness.
For ever since the world was created, people have seen the earth and sky. Through everything God made, they can clearly see his invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature. So they have no excuse for not knowing God.
21 Yes, they knew God, but they wouldn’t worship him as God or even give him thanks. And they began to think up foolish ideas of what God was like. As a result, their minds became dark and confused. 22 Claiming to be wise, they instead became utter fools. 23 And instead of worshiping the glorious, ever-living God, they worshiped idols made to look like mere people and birds and animals and reptiles.” (Romans 1:20-23, NLT)
In the Greek language, there are four kinds of fools, each one more foolish than the previous one. The first is your typical dimwit – someone who lacks common sense (your typical 90’s TV sitcom dad). The second is like the first, only he is irrational and can’t control his emotions or temper (your typical 90’s TV sitcom dad’s brother). The third is a combination of the first two, but on top of this, is someone who cannot be reasoned with (your typical 90’s TV sitcom angry teenager). This brings us to the fourth Greek fool: mōros. This is where we get our word “moron” from. In actuality, the moron isn’t the comical blockhead that we often use the word for. When Paul refers to people who don’t believe in God as mōros, he is suggesting that they are, aside from lacking in common sense, godless and morally worthless, and that they deserve to be berated. Here’s why: willfully choosing to not acknowledge God and/or His character (1:21) leads to foolish deification of other “gods” (1:21-22; be it self, materialism, prestige, etc), which is idolatry (1:23).
U Mad Bro? The Bottom Line:
Go ahead. Be angry about sin in the world. Why? Because God himself is angry about sin in the world. But don’t forget that any sin is offensive to God’s character, damaging to your relationship with Him, and reason enough for divine censure. But you don’t have to be a professed atheist to be standing in outright opposition to the reality of God. You don’t have to worship pagan idols to be guilty of idolatry. Do you look to your paycheck for stability? Is your mind consumed with your livelihood? Are your daily comings and goings (how you dress, what you eat, what you drive, who you talk to, how you talk, etc.) a reflection of your devotion to God, or your devotion to prestige, greed, comfort, or status?
Think about these things the next time you see something offensive on TV. God knows it won’t be long.