I just chased and caught a tiny frog who jumped around on my kitchen floor at my feet while I was making my coffee this morning! He was cute, at first. But I knew he did not belong where I am. He felt he was totally free, doing what frogs do best, in his new, cozy and warm environment on this December day. However, he did not belong where I live! After trapping him in a paper towel while guiding him in with a flyswatter, I picked him up and opened the back door. I sent him back to HIS environment where he belonged, a place where other frogs do what frogs do. Whew. And Ew.
This life episode, along with reading our next passage, stimulates my thinking of remembering a book I read years ago, “A Frog in a Kettle” by George Barna, infamous Christian statistician, futurist and theologian. Written in the 90’s, his book provided what Christians needed to know about life in the year 2000. He predicted,
“In just a few years, we will enter the 21st century. And life as we know it will have radically changed. But those changes won’t come all at once. They’ll come subtly and imperceptibly. And that’s what makes the coming changes so dangerous. Like a frog in a slowly boiling kettle of water, the church has found itself in an environment that is gradually changing. And that environment could become life-threatening if we don’t stay aware of the changes and how to respond. Because if we don’t know what people’s needs are and how to meet them, we run the risk of getting in the way of God’s life-giving message.”
Mm, have we succumbed to the warm, inviting waters of sin that was always sin, slowly accepting our warm environment as we boil to death? For a quick evaluation, look back at the television shows you loved ten or twenty years ago, or even just five years ago, and notice the subtle changes in what our world environment now deems “acceptable”.
Paul is looking at the environment around him and warning new believers who God is, what He wants, what is acceptable to Him, along with how to live a life for and in Jesus Christ as the best life to live. Yes, it’s a tall order! God’s calling for us was challenging then and still is now. You will notice it is the same sins, expressed in different ways, but is still sin. Sin against others is sin against God, Himself and is not the best life God planned for His beloved. When we realize the depth of love God has for us we begin to love like He loves us.
We ended with this passage yesterday, “Bullies, swaggerers, insufferable windbags! They keep inventing new ways of wrecking lives. They ditch their parents when they get in the way. Stupid, slimy, cruel, cold-blooded. And it’s not as if they don’t know better. They know perfectly well they’re spitting in God’s face. And they don’t care—worse, they hand out prizes to those who do the worst things best!”
Here is the response Paul wrote to continue to teach us what God thinks…
ROMANS—OUR CARE AND CALLING
Romans 2:1-16, The Message
God Is Kind, but Not Soft
1-2 Those people are on a dark spiral downward. But if you think that leaves you on the high ground where you can point your finger at others, think again. Every time you criticize someone, you condemn yourself. It takes one to know one. Judgmental criticism of others is a well-known way of escaping detection in your own crimes and misdemeanors. But God isn’t so easily diverted. He sees right through all such smoke screens and holds you to what you’ve done.
3-4 You didn’t think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he’s such a nice God, he’d let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he’s not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.
5-8 You’re not getting by with anything. Every refusal and avoidance of God adds fuel to the fire. The day is coming when it’s going to blaze hot and high, God’s fiery and righteous judgment. Make no mistake: In the end you get what’s coming to you—Real Life for those who work on God’s side, but to those who insist on getting their own way and take the path of least resistance, Fire!
9-11 If you go against the grain, you get splinters, regardless of which neighborhood you’re from, what your parents taught you, what schools you attended. But if you embrace the way God does things, there are wonderful payoffs, again without regard to where you are from or how you were brought up. Being a Jew won’t give you an automatic stamp of approval. God pays no attention to what others say (or what you think) about you. He makes up his own mind.
12-13 If you sin without knowing what you’re doing, God takes that into account. But if you sin knowing full well what you’re doing, that’s a different story entirely. Merely hearing God’s law is a waste of your time if you don’t do what he commands. Doing, not hearing, is what makes the difference with God.
14-16 When outsiders who have never heard of God’s law follow it more or less by instinct, they confirm its truth by their obedience. They show that God’s law is not something alien, imposed on us from without, but woven into the very fabric of our creation. There is something deep within them that echoes God’s yes and no, right and wrong. Their response to God’s yes and no will become public knowledge on the day God makes his final decision about every man and woman. The Message from God that I proclaim through Jesus Christ takes into account all these differences.
IT’S ALL ABOUT GOD AND HIS LOVE FOR US!
“ALL have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, writes Paul to the church, but he also writes we are forgiven when we ask! God does not expect perfection, but He desires His best for us because of His love. We are His beloved. Say that over and over again until it is believed and sinks into the depths of our souls. We are not sinless but we sin less when we realize we are His beloved. God is kind, as Paul writes but he hates the sin that traps and enslaves us to this world. God is on our side and promises to be with us always. Read that again. We are His beloved. He helps us.
Thank you for Paul’s letter writing prompted by your Holy Spirit in him. May your Holy Spirit have the run of my being today, leading and guiding me to your best life for me, living in the environment you choose for my growth in your love, care and calling. I don’t want to be a mindless frog in a kettle, Lord! Not today. Not any day! And thank you for giving me what I needed to get that frog out of my kitchen!
In Jesus Name, Amen