Romans 2:4 ~ nice

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“Nice” in the minds of some people = “We can take advantage of this person and we won't really get in trouble because he/she is so nice.”

Well, that’s not what “nice” means.  That’s what “lame” means.  That's when one person thinks he can mistreat another person and get away with it… because the other person is too soft-hearted (lame = impotent/weak-willed/tender-footed/etc) to do anything about it. 

But be careful…

God is nice.  God is not lame.

This misunderstanding is a major underlying factor of physical, emotional, sexual and spiritual abuse… and a major player in all kinds of sin.  So when people treat God as if God is lame… they can be surprised and even angry when God eventually hands them over to the consequence of their actions.  People can be shocked that God would not just instruct a standard (e.g. Ten Commandments) but actually follow through with that standard.  God is nice.  God is not lame.

Paul’s assumption in the letter-book of Romans is that many of the people in this world, and specifically those who call themselves followers of God, consider God to be “nice” but interpret that to mean that God is “weak-willed”.  And if God is “weak-willed”, then why not take advantage of God’s kindness?  After all, God is loving and kind, slow to anger.  After all, how can such a 'nice' God allow bad things to happen?  After all, if God is gentle and kind, then there should be enough time for us to horse around before we get in too much trouble.

Each of us is like the child who doesn't believe his parents will really follow through with a punishment if he hits his brother again… or the student that doesn’t believe there will really be a retribution for cheating… or the baseball player that doesn’t really think anybody will care if he took steroids… or the politician who doesn’t really believe there will be a consequence for inappropriate sexual behavior… or the pastor who doesn’t really think he’ll get caught for (fill in the blank).  Oh how good we humans have become at pretending that God’s niceness is equal to impotent willpower.

To choose to love…

… and to choose to forbear…

… and to choose to continue to be patient…

… when everyone else chooses idiocy…

… and when everyone else chooses to mock you for being "nice"…

… and when everyone else takes advantage of you…

… is to exhibit both remarkable kindness…

… and magnificent strength.

The ironic truth is that God’s kindness is not meant to give us room to sin… but it is meant to encourage us to respond in love to God.  The freedom of time and space that God gives us to make our own decisions is not meant to entice us to explore the sin list (at the end of Chapter 1)… rather it is meant to help us realize just how amazing God is.  And the realization of God’s kindness is intended to produce within each person a deep desire to turn towards a loving relationship with God.  God’s patience is God’s way to give us opportunity to learn and to change our ways and to run to Him.   God’s kindness is a gentle reminder of how we would be better off with Him.  God’s tolerance is proof that his judgment is withheld in order to allow us to know how much God loves us.

Doesn’t that mean anything to us?

For a devotional today, meditate on these various translations of Romans 2:4 ~~

  • [NLT]  ~  Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?
  • [NIV]  ~  Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?
  • [NASB]  ~  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 Message – Notice the raw sense that is embedded in verses 3-4 in this translation.  Really gets the point across:]  ~  You didn't think, did you, that just by pointing your finger at others you would distract God from seeing all your misdoings and from coming down on you hard? Or did you think that because he's such a nice God, he'd let you off the hook? Better think this one through from the beginning. God is kind, but he's not soft. In kindness he takes us firmly by the hand and leads us into a radical life-change.
Ken Castor

Ken Castor is a husband, dad, pastor, writer and teacher. He serves as a professor at Crown College, Minnesota, where he equips students to pursue Jesus-Centered Faith and Next Generation Ministry. For 20+ years he's focused on equipping the next generations in places like the U.S., Canada, and Northern Ireland. He's the author of Grow Down (Simply Youth Ministry, 2014), Make a Difference (Broadstreet, 2016), the Blue-Letters Editor of the Jesus-Centered Bible (Group, 2015) and numerous other articles and Bible Study guides. But, whenever possible, he gets down on the floor and builds Lego with his kids. Connect with him @kencastor.

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