I once watched an episode of "what would you do?" that tested how people would react if someone were obviously stealing something. The show placed a locked bike in a park and had three different people try to steal it at different times. It then showed the reactions of others in the park when they saw each particular thief trying to lift the bike.
I could not believe the results of the test. The first fake thief was a thug-looking African-American teenage boy. When park-goers saw him cutting the lock on the bike, they yelled at him and called the cops. The second thief was a skater-looking Caucasian boy. This time, passers-by stared for awhile and asked him what he was doing, but walked away after the boy lied a bit. A few reported the suspicious behavior, but most just walked by. The last thief was a pretty, blonde lady, and this time, not only did they not report the theft, they helped her cut the lock! In one case she told a man she was stealing it, and he helped her do it.
There really should be no difference in the situations, right? They all were committing the same crime; they all were stealing the same bike. The only change was in race and gender. Paul talks about something very similar in this section of chapter 2 when he says that God is no respecter of persons. Jews, Gentiles, and Christians are all the same in His eyes. We all commit the same crimes and violate the same laws. Even if the Gentiles weren't breaking the Jewish law, God says they knew what was right and wrong because of their conscience.
This thought should spur our thinking toward two things. One, in following God's example, we are commanded to not respect others based on their outward appearance only, but rather on their inward character. The quiet nerd may make a better friend than the pretty, popular one. Secondly, when you stand before God, you will not be judged by how many rules you followed, but by your heart attitude while you served. (It's not only about obeying the authorities in our lives, but also about having the right heart while you do.) Thanks to Paul for keeping us in check on these two important thoughts!
Food for Thought: What two things can we learn from the passage, “God is no respecter of persons?” Would you say that your attitude has been right towards others?
- Amber Allen
My Wife and Best Friend