Jump Start # 2603
Romans 1:31 “without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful”
Our verse today comes from the midst of a descriptive look at the Gentile mind and world. It wasn’t a pretty picture. God was showing what was on their hearts, and it wasn’t much. The choices that they had made colored and ruined their character. Their relationship with God was non-existent. And, what stands out from this verse is the use of “un.” Four words, each beginning with that expression, “un.” Without understanding. Untrustworthy. Unloving. Unmerciful.
And, what those four “un” words reflect are their attitudes and behavior towards God, others and self. Let’s take a walk down these four words.
First, without understanding. They didn’t know. It was more than they didn’t know, they likely didn’t want to know. And, when one doesn’t understand, he will make wrong choices. How could he make the right choices, he doesn’t know. Paul is broad and generic here. Understanding what, we might wonder. Let’s begin with God. If they understood God they would have pitched their idols in the river. Had they understood God, they would have treated each other better. Everything begins with God. When one misses this, everything else will be off as well. But, they also didn’t understand God’s way or what God expected. This was more than knowing that there is a God. It is knowing God. It is understanding His nature. When we have been married to someone for years, we come to understand them. We know what would upset them. We know how to make them happy. All of this comes from understanding.
Second, untrustworthy. You can’t trust them. Now, when we say this about a person, it usually means they lie, steal or cheat. You have to be on your toes around them. You have to take what they say carefully. You have to keep an eye on them. They are likely to stab you in the back the same time they are praising you. You can’t trust them. How does someone get like this? Simple. Remove God from his life. The only rule he will go by is the rule that pleases him. He is likely to change the rules, say one thing and then say the opposite. He can look you in the eyes and tell you that he is speaking the truth, all the time he is actually lying. You can’t trust him.
Third, unloving. This of course leads to hatred, meanness and taking advantage of others. When love is missing, all relationships around that person suffers. The right thing is never done. Kindness and gentleness will not be found. Harsh. Rough. Selfish. Hurting others without any remorse. Again, Paul doesn’t say where unloving is pointed, but it must first be directed towards God. He doesn’t know God. He doesn’t care about God. He doesn’t love God. God loves him, but he doesn’t love God. From that, he is unloving toward others. He doesn’t care. He is not there to help the hurting. He isn’t there to dry a tear. He’s not there to stand with you, support you or have your back. Don’t count on him, because he doesn’t love. He doesn’t think about you. He never prays for you. He won’t be there for you. He doesn’t love. He won’t share. He won’t go out of his way. He won’t lift you up or encourage you. He only cares about self. He only does what will help self.
Fourth, unmerciful. This carries the idea of mercy, or forgiveness. He’s not patient. He’s not extending second chances. He’s not doing what God is willing to do for him. He will demand full payment. He will throw the book at you. He will cut you off and cut you out. He has no tolerance for your mistakes. There will be no apologies accepted. There will be no turning of the cheek. Expect wrath, anger and hatred. He’ll get even. He’ll try to crush you and destroy you. This is not a good person. This is not someone you want in your life.
Now, some lessons from these four “un” words:
First, we best not be like this. Sadly, I could put the names of some Christians to these “un” words. They hurt the church. They hurt their families. They hurt themselves. Paul is showing us life without Christ. It’s not pretty. It’s a wasted mess. God made us for better things than this. There is no excuse for a blood washed disciple of Jesus to act these ways. When one does, he is desperately needing to spend some time with the Lord. He has missed the essence of what Jesus is all about. Now, even when we are disagreeing with those who see things differently, there is no reason to be rude, mean or unkind. Never. Jesus wasn’t.
Second, the beautiful thing about this passage is that a person can change. The power of the Gospel is so strong that it can wash away and change all those “un” words. A person can understand the will of the Lord. A person can become honest and trustworthy. A person can love. A person can be compassionate and merciful. This is not a life sentence. A person doesn’t have to stay this way. A person can grow up in a home like this and still change. We can learn. We can become like Christ. God can take the most broken person and turn him around.
Third, we must be careful with the influences around us. It’s always easier to go downhill than it is to go uphill. If co-workers, family, friends are these ways, it is very likely that you can begin to learn their ways. You need quality people in your life. You need people who are going to point you to the Lord. You need people who are serious about God’s word and their journey to Heaven. You need people who will help you, encourage you, and bring out the best in you. This may mean cutting off some social ties. This may mean after work I just go home and I don’t hang out with those who are only going to pull me away from the Lord. It may mean that I put some distance between family members who are content to act ungodly.
Not having God in your life can certainly lead to some ugly places.