Facing Up

James Cook

READ : Romans 3:1–20

None is righteous, no, not one. (v. 10)

A thoughtful morning reading of verses 10–18 is enough to put the damper on the day. There is a strong temptation to dismiss it as exaggeration. After all, “none is righteous, no, not one” does seem a bit stiff. But if you happen to read the morning paper in close connection, Paul’s verses begin to ring true. “Alabama Declares Martial Law” and “Marshals Firing Tear Gas Repel Mob Periling Negro Church Rally” are one morning’s banner headlines. They are followed by, “Pakistanis Strafe Afghans On Border” and “Lawyers Assail Landings in Cuba.” After that exercise it does not seem so startling to read that “their feet are swift to shed blood, in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known.” There is plenty of bloodshed, ruin, and misery in our world today, and precious little peace.

So it turns out that Paul was not simply wallowing in gloom. He was honestly facing up to the conditions of a Christless society. And he faces up to it with a purpose. Paul realized the human situation was bad—very bad—but not too bad to be saved. He knew that once we have the honesty to face up to our need, God is ready to help. Paul’s own feet had once been swift to shed blood. His own path had been strewn with ruin and misery. He was now convinced that what Christ had done for him, he could do for any man. (originally published October 5, 1961)

PRAYER

Thank you, God, for the assurance that you are in control of this troubled world. Amen.