In our last blog entry we began examining God's anger. He was angry because people didn't want to accept him but, rather, turn to paganism. As a result...
"Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen." (Rom 1.24-25 ESV)
God, in his holy anger (1.18), left them alone to their sin. That's an unexpected twist, isn't it? When we think of anger we think of punishment. To be sure, that will come to each sinner but, here, the wrath of God is different. In effect, God said, "You want to be sinners? Fine, you've chosen idolatry so go ahead, live in sin and reap the results of it."
That, to me, is incredibly scary--a person tells God, "Go away!" and the Lord honors his wishes!
Paul gets more specific:
"For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error." (Rom 1.26-27 ESV)
This is so politically incorrect that it's off the charts but Paul said that a result of people choosing to be paganizing idolaters was a perversion of sexual expression that degenerated into homosexual behavior.
However, anyone taking a look at the history of the Roman Empire is going to have to admit that it was a time of really, really low standards. Adultery, fornication, temple prostitution and homosexual behavior were normal during this time. Sounds like today.
You must understand that the New Testament teachings concerning morality would've sounded strange to the ears of the pagans. What some today dismiss as "Victorian" or "repressed" was radical to debauched Rome!
"And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. Though they know God's decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them." (Rom 1.28-32 ESV)
This rounds out the Apostle Paul's list on his estimation of pagan society. Whether people agree with him or not (I most certainly do) they can't accuse him of being vague!
What's worse, I don't think our condition has changed. This never will be a popular view but orthodox Christianity has it right: the heart of humankind is sinful. It has been since the Fall of Adam in the garden (yes, I believe that was an historical event) and it always will be until the end of time.
Unless one accepts the gospel of Jesus Christ.