Bad News First
Read Romans 1:18–20, 3:10–18
“Do you want to hear the good news or the bad news first?”
How do you answer that question? I always want to hear the bad news first. Get it out of the way. Rip the bandage off fast and move on (plus, when you hear the bad news first, the good news sounds even better!).
The Book of Romans begins in a place where all the news seems very, very bad.
After writing several letters (like Galatians) where he put out the fires of legalism with the water of grace, Paul apparently decided to write this letter to the church in Rome to systematically teach them the gospel of grace.
He starts with what sounds like the bad news: God is angry at evil. But Paul tells us God is right to be angry at evil. Love is always angry at evil.
Don’t confuse the wrath of God with the wrath of man. Human anger often comes from a selfish trigger (“I am offended!” “I feel disrespected!”) and is often expressed with unpredictable explosions of temper. But God doesn’t get angry like that. As Max Lucado says, “God is angry at the evil that ruins His children.”
As I write this, BP is still trying to cap an oil gusher far below the surface of the Gulf of Mexico. Crude oil is spewing into the sea following a tragic explosion on a deep-sea drilling rig. Beautiful white beaches and delicate marsh lands are being soiled.
People are right to be angry and upset about this, right to demand justice, right to ask that recompense be made. The disaster already cost precious human lives in the initial explosion and continues to pollute the environment. Cleanup will be expensive. Doesn’t all that make you mad — and sad?
Well, I believe when you experience grief and anger over that oil spill you get a glimpse of how God must feel about evil on this planet. He’s sad and angry at evil because to Him it’s rancid pollution of what He made as a perfect place. It’s a sickening tragedy. It must be cleaned up. Cleanup will be costly. And recompense must be paid.
And I hate to tell you this but there’s more bad news: In this metaphor, we’re all BP.
You and I have all, in many ways large and small, contributed to fouling the environment God meant to be a perfect Eden for humanity. There was an initial explosion when our ancestors first rebelled against God, and since then, with hatred, with insults, with selfishness, we’ve all spewed more oil into the ocean. “As the Scriptures say, ‘No one is righteous — not even one.’” (Romans 3:10 [NLT])
This is your spiritual predicament — and mine.
You and I need to first understand this bad (but true) news: the enormity of sin, and the very justified wrath of God against it.
Only then can we fully appreciate the beautiful, astounding, undeserved, lavish gift of grace. Grace is the amazing story of the perfect cleanup. The paid debt. The good news that comes next.
How would you explain how love and anger could co-exist in God?
How is the wrath of God different from the wrath of humans?
How is the problem of human sin like the oil spill?
Thank God for His mercy even in the face of human sin. Thank Him for His patience.