In Romans 2:3-4 The Apostle Paul lays out an outline for the rest of the chapter in which he describes two primary ways in which people try to make themselves right with God, and fail.
But do you suppose this, O man, when you pass judgment on those who practice such things and do the same yourself, that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you think lightly of the riches of His kindness and tolerance and patience, not knowing that the kindness of God leads you to repentance?
The rest of Romans 2 deals with the points raised in these verses.
First is the belief that we can please God by simply being better than other people. Many people like to pass judgement on others in order to feel better about themselves. This does not make you right with God.
Second is the belief that since God is full of kindness, tolerance and patience, we can therefore do whatever we want and God will never punish us and only reward us. Many people think that because Jesus died for their sins, they can do whatever they please and sin all the more because God will always forgive them.
Both of these ideas are wrong. Very wrong.
First, Paul says there is a very common temptation to make ourselves look better by judging others and putting them down. It is very easy to feel better about yourself if you can look at someone who is doing something wrong and think to yourself “I would never do that.”
You can feel a little better about yourself if you only focus on your own strengths and judge others for their weaknesses. However, you cannot actually make yourself better this way. In fact, this attitude is what led the Pharisees to murder Jesus. This attitude makes you worse, not better. It makes you a more sinful person. It is so dangerous that it turned the Pharisees, who were among the most perfectionist people in the world, into thuggish murderers.
The other dangerous attitude is to take God’s grace flippantly and use it as a permission slip for sin. Since Jesus will forgive you for anything, many people take that to mean they can do whatever they please and do not need to take sin seriously.
This is dangerously flawed reasoning. If you aren’t taking sin seriously, then by definition you also are not taking Jesus’s death seriously. Jesus did not die on the cross so that you could keep on sinning whenever you feel like it. If you think of his death as a permission slip to sin more, then you are among those who spit on him and insulted him while he hung on the cross.
Jesus did not just die to forgive your sins. He died to defeat sin and take it away. He died to make you righteous in place of sinful. If he wanted you to keep on sinning he would have stayed in heaven looking down in judgement on you, and letting you do whatever you please all the way to Hell.
Jesus is the solution to both of these problems. First, if you are tempted to look down on others in self-righteous judgement, you have to remember Jesus, who really was righteous, and yet was not self-righteous. He could have judged us for our sins, because he was truly perfect, but he chose to become one of us and take our sin upon himself. There is no room for pride and arrogance and looking down on others when you remember what Jesus did for you.
Likewise, when you remember what Jesus did for you, there is no room for continuing to live in sin either. He died to take sin away. Why would you go on living in it?
Do not fall into these traps. Do not sin by looking down on others and comparing yourself to them. Do not sin by spitting on Jesus’s death and using it as an excuse for your sin.
Never fall into these traps.
Instead, look to Jesus and worship him. Pray to him. Say “Have mercy on me, a sinner.” When you pray that, he hears you, and the answer is always yes.
Remember his grace, and extend it to others. Spread righteousness instead of sin.