I have been reading in Romans, and saw something interesting that Paul says in the middle of his argument in Romans 3:
“But if our unrighteousness serves to show the righteousness of God, what shall we say? That God is unrighteous to inflict wrath on us? (I speak in a human way.)” Romans 3:5
A human question
Let’s take note of Paul’s parenthetical statement: “I speak in a human way.” He brings up a natural human response or question to the argument he is making about the gospel: is God unrighteous or vindictive in pouring out His wrath on us?
It’s a reasonable question (the answer is no, but Paul still brings the question up). He does this throughout the whole letter—a human question, followed by the gospel answer.
It’s ok to have questions
Couple this with how the Psalmist addresses God (particularly at the beginning of Lament Psalms), and we see that it’s perfectly valid to approach God and His Word with intense questions or feelings of doubt.
This made me think about (1) the way we treat young believers who question the faith, and (2) how we view and treat unbelievers.
- Do we allow young believers to ask the hard questions—ones that question our theological framework or the very foundations of faith and belief? Or does our mindset or environment discourage them from asking these questions?
- Do we interact with unbelievers with patience and kindness—even those that (in our estimation) are really sinful? Or do we treat unbelievers harshly because we expect them to be moral people, or think that they should “know better”?
Gentleness and respect
We often quote the middle portion of 1 Peter 3:15, which encourages us to always be “prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you.”
But we often fail to quote the end of the verse: “yet do it with gentleness and respect.” Are we gentle with those who doubt the faith? Do we share the gospel with unbelievers respectfully?
We must let people honestly struggle.
And let the scriptures honestly answer.
The ultimate example
This calls us to not rely on pat or easy answers, but to pursue a deeper understanding of the gospel as revealed in God’s Word, and how it answers the deepest questions of life.
And it also calls us to treat believers and unbelievers (all people) with kindness and respect—signs of deep love for them.
This is how Jesus—who was the epitome of grace and truth—viewed people as He shared the gospel with them (see Matt. 9:35-36). We should be like Jesus. May our prayer be, in the words of an old hymn:
Let me look at the crowd as my Savior did,R.A. Jarvie
Till my eyes with tears grow dim,
Let me look till I pity the wandering sheep
And love them for love of Him.
Dear Lord I ask for the eyes that see
Deep down to the world’s sore need,
I ask for the love that holds not back,
But pours out itself indeed;
I want that passionate power of prayer;
That yearns for the great crowd’s soul,
I want to go ‘mong the fainting sheep,
And tell them my Lord makes whole.