Bad News and Good News

Today’s readings are Jeremiah 20 and Romans 2.

Jeremiah had a tough gig! From the beginning, God told him he was bringing disaster upon his people – and Jeremiah would bring them the news:

Get yourself ready! Stand up and say to them whatever I command you. Do not be terrified by them, or I will terrify you before them.
Jer 1:17

In chapter 19 Jeremiah has delivered his latest dose of bad news. There was no repentant response to this news. Rather, Jeremiah is beaten and placed in the stocks. He pours out his heart to the Lord. He feels deceived and overwhelmed – yet he has been faithful in communicating the Lord’s word to the people and will continue to do so.

I pray that we might be as faithful as Jeremiah in the light and momentary trials that we face in our ever more spiritually hardened Australia.

Romans chapter 2 is looking back at chapter 1. Paul is having a rhetorical argument with an imagined self righteous Jew as he opens up this chapter. I like the way the NLT says it:

You may think you can condemn such people, but you are just as bad, and you have no excuse! When you say they are wicked and should be punished, you are condemning yourself, for you who judge others do these very same things.
Rom 2:1-2

This echoes the words of Jesus in Matthew – not to condemn all judgement (which itself would be judgement – and therefore self defeating) but rather to condemn hypocritical judgement:

“Do not judge others, and you will not be judged. For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.

“And why worry about a speck in your friend’s eye when you have a log in your own? How can you think of saying to your friend, ‘Let me help you get rid of that speck in your eye,’ when you can’t see past the log in your own eye? Hypocrite! First get rid of the log in your own eye; then you will see well enough to deal with the speck in your friend’s eye.
Matt 7:1-5

Paul goes on to give more bad news in chapter 2 with only glimmers of hope. But he finishes with this good news for both Jews as well as Gentiles like us:

For you are not a true Jew just because you were born of Jewish parents or because you have gone through the ceremony of circumcision.   No, a true Jew is one whose heart is right with God. And true circumcision is not merely obeying the letter of the law; rather, it is a change of heart produced by God’s Spirit. And a person with a changed heart seeks praise from God, not from people.
Rom 2:28-29

We can be so very thankful that God is ever kind, tolerant and patient with us – enabling us to develop changed hearts that seek praise only from God!

[Originally posted on 19 October 2015 by Andrew Zahra.]