GUILTY AS CHARGED! (3/4)

The tension is thick in the courtroom. All eyes are on prosecutor Paul. What is he up to?

The jury, still looking with expecting eyes and just waiting for the verdict to be read aloud, suddenly got the surprise of their lives in a one-liner.

Paul, instead of turning to the defendants that are just waiting to be sentenced, now directs his speech to the jury. What was this? Unheard of! What’s the point here?

Paul writes in Romans 2:1-3

“There you are inexcusable, O Man, whoever you are who judge, for in whatever you judge another you condemn yourself; for you who judge practice the same things. But we know that the judgment of God is according to truth against those who practice such things. And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?”

The jurors look at each other. What did Paul just say? We are guilty as well? How dare he? We do what is right!!

Paul obviously was now addressing in his letter the people in the Roman church – and Jews in general – who thought they were still good with God. After all, they were the Jews, the elect of God who received the Law of Moses. What could possibly be wrong with them?

Paul asks the clerk to bring his surprise witnesses to the court room. The jury is looking frantically to Paul. Then to the judge. Back to Paul again. Fear turned into anger. And angry looks turned into utter disgust even for prosecutor Paul.

The courtroom doors opened and four witnesses walk in. They took their seats and the trial, to the surprise of everyone in the room, actually continued. The jury thought it was a done deal, but it wasn’t.

Paul calls the first witness to the stand.  The jury looks in unbelief. How dare he? Calling in a woman from the streets?

You need to understand that in the times of Paul, Jews looked at the unbelievers with a sense of superiority. We after all are the elect of God. They even called them dogs or goyim. How’s that for a demeaning comment?

Paul starts interrogating Ms. Magda Lene

Paul replies: “Oh yes! I just got started…I ask Ms. M. Magdalene to take her place on the stand.

The jury couldn’t believe that! Ms. M. Magdalene? The street prostitute? How could he? A woman? No way!!

Paul continues: “SO Ms. M. What do you have to say?”

Ms. M: well, I don’t like to say it, but you know I got to know this man who was just amazing. He healed people and taught about a Kingdom I didn’t know anything about. He was so loving and kind. He even set me free from everything that was just keeping me in prison. I was feeling I was being tormented. I was able to get off the streets and started living a very different life.

Paul: OK. But what does this have to do with this jury?

Ms. M: Well, they didn’t believe I really changed. They still judged me for being a prostitute! As if could never change this? They said I should be ashamed of myself. But I am not.

Paul: anything else?

Ms. M: Well, they seem to be always so confident in the fact that they are Jews and chosen by God, but at the same time they completely despise me. I just don’t get it. For me they just seem to be a bunch of self-righteous people. But, the man I met and set me free taught me to love them, so that’s what I do, even though I don’t get anything in return, but that’s ok.

Paul: Thank you Ms. M. You may go.

Paul writes in Romans 2:4 that it is NOT the judgement of God that leads people to repentance, but rather His goodness. Ms. M. experienced God’s goodness, but they despised it. They thought they were better then her. They even thought they were in the position of being the judge.

Allow me to rewind the story. I spoke of Israel Folau and his spicy comment on Instagram. Unbelievers obviously attacked him for being a bigot and homophobe. Nothing new there. But let’s zoom in a bit more on what he said. He tweeted: “What does God want with gays?” Folau’s second tweet? Simple..HELL!

You see what just happened here? It’s not that God condones homosexuality. He does not. But He also doesn’t allow believers to become the judge either. It’s one thing to believe that any other form of sex that is not between a man and a woman within the context of marriage is sin. People are obviously entitled to believe that. It is another thing to become the judge and decide to send them straight to their destiny: Hell (at least the way they think it will be). This is indeed bigotry, hateful and homophobic. And it’s not true. It’s not His judgment that leads people to rethink of their ways. It’s His goodness!

After all, is one sin worse than another? Are gays and lesbians really at the top of the sin scale? I don’t read this in my bible. In fact, Paul just uses this particular example of unnatural relations to make a point. People have become the ‘object of their own affection’. It’s idolatry leading to immorality. Nevertheless, the ‘black sin list’ doesn’t work that way. What about the other 24 sins?

You see, we tend to compare our shortcomings and failures with each other. OK. I lied to my boss…but hey, he cheated on his wife. Isn’t that worse? Doesn’t that sound familiar? Garden of Eden?

God doesn’t compare people with each other, but only compares all people to His standard and the final conclusion (read Romans 3:11-15 for yourself now) is that all people are guilty as charged. Jews and Gentiles.

But before I give away the final verdict, which I think I just did. Let’s have a look at one more testimony that prosecutor Paul calls to the stand.

Paul now asks Mr. Care to take his seat. He is actually a Roman lawyer. He knows a lot about the law. Mr. Care doesn’t like the jurors that much and it is obvious, but his reasons may be understandable….

So, Paul continues: “Please state your name and position”

Mr. Care: my Name is Mr. Care.

Paul: Ok Mr. Care. Before the trial I spoke to you and you told me some interesting stories. Would you mind sharing this here in court of law?

Mr. Care: sure no problem. The other day I met two of the jurors that are sitting right there and they needed to get justice for a personal matter. I was their lawyer. Now I cannot disclose a lot of our relationship, because that would violate the confidentiality agreement that I am bound by. But let me say this. They were talking about their Sabbath rest. Their religion says that they should rest, right, not doing any work. But I don’t do that. I had to meet up with them and I could only schedule on a Sabbath. They refused. So far so good. But you know what I found out why they really refused? They actually had a secret business meeting with a client who just happens to be a friend of mine. I was blown away. How two-faced! Hypocrites…

Paul: OK. Anything else?

Mr. Care: Well, the two men looked really down at me. You know, what you could expect from them. They feel they’re way better than everyone else. But you know what, yes it’s true I don’t keep the sabbath, but I am not bound by that. But I rest. Counsellors make a lot of hours and I do want to spend time with my family. When my conscience says that it’s time to stop working to spend time with my kids and wife, well. Then I stop.

OK Let’s PAUSE HERE.

Paul writes in Romans  2:14-16 the following interesting thing:

“for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.”  

Allow me to put this in simple English. Believers and unbelievers have a conscience. You don’t need to tell an unbeliever that cheating on your wife is not done. The fact that we are aware of certain things that you should or shouldn’t do, gives testimony to the law of God that is actually written on all people’s hearts. Sometimes people get it right and their conscience will not condemn them. In other occasions they may screw up and their conscience will let them know. There is no hide-and-seek game with God. He knows the motivations and secrets of our hearts; believer and non-believer…

Judge Stevens now asks prosecutor Paul: “Any more witnesses?”

Mr. Gentilos the Greek is called now to take a seat at the witness bench. The jury really gets mad. A Greek. A dog? How dare he?

Paul continues his interrogation:

“So Mr. Gentilos, You have something to say about this jury?”

“Oh yeah!” absolutely! The other day I was working in my restaurant and I overheard the conversations that some of these jurors had with each other. Perhaps I shouldn’t have heard it, but I did.”

“Hmm, interesting!”, Paul replied. “What did you hear for instance?”

“Well, you know, they are Jews…”, Mr Gentilos answered.

Paul: SO?

Mr. Gentilos: Well, they talked about business.

Paul: OK What about it. Come on man. Spit it out!

Mr. Gentilos: OK. Very well then. Two of them have their own businesses and they were laughing and mocking some of the people that are being accused here today. They actually used to do business with them and they were boasting in the fact that they ripped one of them off on a lucrative business deal. OK. I did some stuff in the past as well. You know, with taxes…but hey, I am human. But you know what I can’t stand? These jurors, Jews they call themselves say that they are right, but they do pretty much the same stuff I did. They are such hypocrites!

Paul: OK. Was that it?

Mr. Gentilos: Oh no! Suddenly I saw more of the jurors joining them in the conversation. They spoke of how filthy these criminals were. The conversation wasn’t beautiful. That’s why I thought I’d mention it to you…and called your office…

Paul: Very well. Thank you Mr. Gentilos! You may go now. You are excused from the bench.

Paul was pleased with the testimony of Mr. Gentilos. The looks of the jurors become worried. They didn’t see this one coming at all.

Romans 2:17-24 deals with this situation. There are many people that look at believers and think: ‘Wait a second, they are so proud to believe, but they do the very stuff that they shouldn’t do. What kind of example is that? If Christianity is all about that, then I don’t want it!’

Verse 23-24 says this: ‘You who make your boast in the law, do you dishonour God through breaking the law? For the name of God is blasphemed among the gentiles because of you, as it is written.’

The witness is excused. It’s almost 5 pm and the judge wants to get over with it soon. Prosecutor Paul now calls the final witness to the stand. It’s Doctor C. He was the physician of 2 jurors that weren’t accused of anything yet.

Doctor C. had a conversation with the two – off the record – about religion. It wasn’t a doctor-client thing, but just a personal conversation. Actually, Doctor C was already off duty and almost going home. The two patients came into his practice last minute because of a complaint. They felt that Dr. C. didn’t do the surgery the way they wanted it. They became very disrespectful and started making very low comments on the abilities of Dr. C. Suddenly they made a comment about the fact that they were God’s chosen ones.

Dr. C didn’t understand why they brought this up and asked:

“Why are you telling me this?”

Two jurors: Well simple…we had a surgery when we were children. Our religion calls it circumcision and since you performed a surgery close to…well…you may want to know what that was about. We are Jews and therefore we go to heaven.

Dr. C.: Oh that’s great to know.

Two jurors: Yeah. And you know what? You are not! You are going to hell!

Dr. C: Oh I see. But let me ask you one thing…If you say you are God’s chosen ones going straight to heaven, shouldn’t you love your neighbour as well? Isn’t that what your religion teaches you?

The two jurors were silenced with that remark.

Romans 2:29 says this: ‘But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God.’

The final witness is also excused and it became very clear to everyone in the court room is guilty.

The defendants? Well, that was a no brainer. Guilty as charged…

But guess what? What about the jury? Well, they were guilty as well.

This is unheard of. Who has ever heard of a trial where both the defendants and the jury are guilty as charged? Well, Paul just did in Romans 1:18 all the way to chapter 3:20. Everyone is guilty as charged.

Everyone is guilty…you can feel the tension in the air. The godless and wicked gentiles already see the writing on the wall. They know what’s coming next. Yet, the jury, the religious Jews never ever saw their own verdict coming. They too are guilty? How can that be?

Finally everyone else in the room, the spectators, are not just spectators. They are also part of the same trial. They are indirectly on the stand as well and the verdict is the same for them. Guilty, Guilty, Guilty!

YEAH BUT?

Just before judge Stevens wants to give the verdict a juror, a Jew obviously speaks up…

Yeah but!? If there is no advantage of being a Jew, what’s the point of it all? We Jews have a special relationship with God and now you are saying that we are just as guilty? We’re nothing special. Paul, you are a racist!

Another person, this time not from the jury but from the crowd that is attending the lawsuit, stands up and screams: ‘You see, I knew it! These Jews are just a bunch of hypocrites, and if they are like that, then God is also not real. He’s just a crutch for people…they say one thing but do another. I hate religion!’

Finally, a big, intimidating man, beard, tattoos all over his body, seemingly under the influence of something stands up and makes his comment. Unheard of! In court of law! He claims that if God’s righteousness becomes brighter by the fact that everyone is not righteous, God shouldn’t judge any of us at all. We make God look good. Why can’t God just leave us alone and we’ll make Him look great. Live and let live…

Judge Stevens sees the scene and puts the hammer down screaming for order…

Prosecutor Paul asks for one final comment which the judge grants him. Paul says it like this:

Paul: Excuse #1 is just nonsense. Of course, it is a great thing to be a Jew. After all God entrusted us with His very word. That’s a privilege! But the Jews thought that by just having the law they were ok with God. Obedience actually matters to God. It’s not just doing your rituals…God wants a relationship not a bunch of robots who just go through the motions, just to pay dues.

The other guy that even thinks that God is a hypocrite because his believers are twisted…well that is twisted too. People continue to do what is wrong, Jew or not. It’s not fair to throw this in God’s face. He continues to be good and just. We are the problem, not God…

The third dude is just ridiculous. God can’t judge anyone because well, our badness makes Him look good? That’s just bizarre. No, everybody is guilty as charged. Period!

Now what? Where does this all leave us? What’s next? We just accept that it is what it is and continue living our lives? We all screw up, religious people and unbelievers all together? We are humans… So, what’s the point?

Well, let’s go back and conclude with this. Paul first shortly presents his opening statement in Romans 1:16-17

It says: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “The just shall live by faith.”

How can we come to terms with the Good and Bad News? More in my last blog on ‘Guilty as charged’.