In today’s reading, Paul makes it very clear that all of us are sinners; Romans and Jews of his time and those of us living today. In verses 10 through 18, Paul describes the lack of character and miserable existence of those without Christ in their lives. William Barclay’s translations helped me better understand the verses: verse 12 “Human nature without Christ is soured and useless” and verse 16 “Destruction and wretchedness are in their ways”. Eugene Peterson’s The Message sums it up by saying we are all in the same sinking boat. After this grim description, Paul tells us that we can’t earn our salvation by following the law.
I always thought that I “had” to do a lot of things like studying the Bible, Sunday school classes, prayer time, etc. In a way, I was trying to “follow the law”. But, in many cases, these things felt like chores. As my relationship with Christ slowly grows, I'm finding that some of these things aren’t as hard anymore. For example, reading the Bible isn’t just reading words anymore; I’m finding meaning in those words. I know I’m not there yet and it’s very comforting to know that I don’t have to rely on my efforts.
What this reading says to me is that only through Jesus’ sacrifice do I have the opportunity to accept the gift of forgiveness and a very personal and living relationship with God. Through God’s grace, we don't have to wear ourselves out trying to do it all on our own. He loves us as we are and, as our relationships with Him grow stronger, we will be changed. As Paul says in verse 20, we will become aware of sin; personal sin and sin in the world. We will also awaken to how very much we all need God’s forgiveness and love and of just how big His love really is.
Paul was writing to the Romans so very long ago and yet his teachings still have so much meaning for all of us.