I know the media crafts headlines to capture our interest and seduce our attention. I know there’s always a story behind the story that tends to get buried if it detracts from a sensational one-liner. But, not gonna lie, I had to smile when I saw this headline a few days ago: “Russian Olympian Who Wore ‘I Don’t Do Doping’ Sweatshirt Fails Doping Test.” Beyond knowing that she was filmed wearing the sweatshirt and that she did, in fact, fail a drug test, I don’t know if she knowingly took something to help her performance or not. But the headline presents, at the least, an interesting irony.
You can wear the shirt, but you can’t hide behind the shirt. You can implicitly judge others by declaring yourself innocent, but things have a way of coming to light. There’s no hiding behind the shirt. Knowing something is not the same as doing something . . . or as the case might be, not the same as NOT doing something. If this disgraced Olympian consciously presumed upon the publicity of a well-timed placement of a logo, then she was foolishly mistaken. Such is the folly of presuming.
Do you suppose, O man–you who judge those who do such things and yet do them yourself–that you will escape the judgment of God? Or do you presume on the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience, not knowing that Gods kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?
(Romans 2:3-4 ESV)
Paul continues to make His case for the power of God for salvation, the gospel. And the wonder of a righteousness revealed which is apart from works–a righteousness from “faith for faith” (1:17)–is truly good news when the bad news is fully understood. The bad news that by the works of law, whether the Mosaic law or the law of moral consciousness, “no human being will be justified in God’s sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin” (3:20). And as part of laying out the bad news, he takes on those who would pass judgment on others as a way of deflecting attention from their own disguised depravity. Those who, like our Olympian friend, had their own shirt declaring, “I Don’t!” . . . though, in reality, they did.
And though they knew better, they continued to present the facade of their own goodness. No divine doping test had busted them. No scandal had broken. What was done in secret was contained in secret. And because there had been no judgment, they fooled themselves into thinking they had escaped judgment. But in reality, they were presuming on “the riches of God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience.” They were slighting God’s “slow to anger” mercy. Failing to recognize that His kindness was meant to lead them to repentance.
Though they thought they were getting away with something as they pointed their fingers at others, all the while God was contending for their hearts. Though they boasted of great knowledge and an inner track on holiness, God waited as He sought to show them how dumb it was to trust in their own righteousness.
God’s patience was part of His pursuit. But they presumed. They thought light of it. In effect, they mocked and despised God’s kindness as they paraded around in their “I Don’t” tee’s and believed the lie of the logo on their chest instead of recognizing God’s forbearance as a call to repentance.
Oh, praise God for the riches of His kindness and forbearance and patience. Exalt the King who is longsuffering with His servants. Worship the Judge who desires that all men and women be justified, not by their own works and righteousness, but through the finished work of Christ on the cross and the perfect righteousness of Christ credited to their account.
And ours is to shred the sweatshirt. To quit kidding ourselves as to our own goodness. To quit fooling ourselves that because everything is going well we must be doing well. Instead ours should be the psalmist’s plea: “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts! And see if there be any grievous way in me . . . ” (Ps. 139:23-24).
And having been searched, then take advantage of the riches of God’s patience and kindness to repent. To submit to a change of mind as prompted by the Spirit who convicts of sin. To change our course through the enabling of the Spirit who lives in us, leading us, and conforming us, more and more, into the likeness of the Master.
If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make Him a liar, and His word is not in us.
(1John 1:9-10 ESV)
Father, keep us from the folly of presuming on the riches of Your kindness . . . but lead us to repentance.
By Your grace. For Your glory.