18 The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, 19 since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. 20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles. 24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen. 26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error. 28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
This passage gets to the heart of the Christian message. God created the world and created us to have relationship with him. But many people have chosen to reject God and exchange his truth for a lie, resulting in his “wrath”. This is an often-misunderstood term and can cause fear. But here we see that God shows his wrath by allowing us to have what we want. When people reject his truth and worship created things rather than the creator, he grants the desires of their hearts – a downward spiral of greed and lusts which takes them further away from him. This all sounds a bit desperate.
But God is loving. He is kind and patient (Rom 2:4) and the aim of his kindness is to lead us to repentance. I think God allows us to degenerate so that we will recognise the emptiness of self-satisfaction and start to look outside ourselves for answers. Paul’s long list of sinful behaviours is a list of symptoms, but the root cause of the problem is broken relationship with God As a physio, if I just treat symptoms rather than diagnosing and treating the real problem, people may feel some short-term relief, but the pain will return. I need to fix the root cause. In the same way, as Christians, we need to focus on the broken relationship with God which is the real cause of the problem – Sin – rather than focussing on sins (the symptoms).
Thank you, Jesus, that you came so that our relationship with our Father could be restored. Thank you that your death and resurrection treated the real problem. Thank you, Lord, for revealing yourself in creation. Please help us, and all the world, to see you and your grace.
Written by Megan Cornell