Romans 2:4-5 (ESV)
4 Or do you presume on the riches of his kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance? 5 But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
As always with reading scripture, context is required. The verse immediately before this passage was this:
3 Do you suppose, O man—you who judge those who practice such things and yet do them yourself—that you will escape the judgment of God?
The such things described in the verse is the fallenness of man described in Romans 1. As humans, we tend to worship created things rather than creator. Ultimately we worship ourselves. The reduction of Romans 1 to a prohibition of homosexuality is two dimensional and ultimately incorrect. The chapter is not about less than the practice of homosexuality, but it is certainly about much more. The part that summarizes my state is found in Romans 1:31 – – “foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless”.
The current passage of scripture reminds me that I did not turn toward God (repent) because of my own goodness. I was dead in my fallenness. I turned because of his actions of kindness, forbearance and patience. The person who is storing up wrath? The person in Romans 2:3 who judges another from the very position of “foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.”
Should God be expected or (speaking foolishly) allowed to display wrath? Should he be expected to set a standard then be angry if the standard is broken? Should he be expected to display anger toward the judgmental hypocrite like me? A God who could be angry puts off many. Don’t we have enough anger in our world? I also struggle with the concept of God’s wrath, but it does make sense. I’ve certainly been angry, I’ve just rarely been justified in it. Mercy has no relevance if it is not contrasted. Mercy from what?
The driving thesis of Romans 2 continues – – we all stand under judgment for failing the standard of worshipping created things rather than creator. We all find it easy to criticize another for the fallenness that she displays while smugly assuming that our sin is less offensive to God. These verses are a continuation of the prohibition to judge others from the position of needing kindness, forbearance and patience ourselves.
When will our need for God’s kindness, forbearance and patience end and our ability to judge others justly begin? Not in this brief life.