The Uniform Series text we’re studying for Sunday, August 5 is Romans 2:1-12; we might be able to describe this text as a “gotcha!” move in Paul’s diatribe about good law-abiding-citizen behavior and righteousness and who is righteous (spoiler alert: God, period – which includes Jesus) and justification-by-grace-through-faith.
As such, it probably is not meant to make any of us readers feel really good about ourselves, so maybe we can go ahead and lean in to that discomfort (and if we get to feeling too anxious, we can just keep reading, at least through chapter 8 or so) …
In that spirit, here are a few questions along the leaning into discomfort lines that we might or might not want to consider in class:
In v1, Paul says whoever judges others is “doing the very same things” mentioned earlier as examples of wickedness that suppresses the truth (see Romans 1:18-32). Do we agree with this statement, or do we feel like arguing with it? Why?
Do we think Paul’s point is that people who judge are secretly doing the same specific behaviors they condemn? Or that people who judge do things that are just as bad, without recognizing or acknowledging it? Or that there is something intrinsically wrong with judging itself? Or is there another possibility? What leads us to prefer one of these possible interpretations over another? What difference does our answer make for what this text means for us?
In v3, Paul asks whether people who judge others imagine they will escape the judgment of God. Why does he make this particular suggestion, do we think? Could this suggestion tell us something about what we are doing when we judge others? What would that be?
Similarly, in v4 Paul raises the matter of God’s kindness and the prospect of repentance. How is judging others related to repentance? (E.g., is it a consequence of repentance, compatible with repentance, something that helps us recognize a need to repent, … ?) What makes us think this?
In v5, Paul accuses “whoever you are” of having hard and impenitent hearts. How is judging others related to the condition of a person’s heart, do we think? What kind of heart do we have when we are judging others? What makes us think this?
How is judging others related to self-seeking (v8)? To obedience to the truth? What makes us think this?
Does “patiently doing good” (v7) require the application of moral standards and judgments? Why do we think this? Can people cultivate that kind of life without judging others? Why, or why not?
Here, for folks who may be interested, is a set of commentaries I found on the internet, on Romans and the implications of the diatribe form, in which our text is the second move:
“The Challenge of Romans”
“Learning the Truth from Lies: Diatribe in Romans”
“Praising the Audience, Blaming the Outsiders”