It is always interesting to read the same passage from different translations or versions of the Bible. One has caught my attention recently. It is Romans 3:20. The NIV lists the verse as: Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin. The Message lists the verse as: Our involvement with God’s revelation doesn’t put us right with God. What it does is force us to face our complicity in everyone else’s sin.
The first part of both versions is saying that we cannot gain His grace through the keeping of the laws alone. The second part of the verses is what caught my attention. The second part of the NIV says that the law helps us to see where we are sinning. Without it, we would be ignorant of our wrong doing. With it, we know when and where we have sinned. If we look at this verse from the Message version, it gives a different feel. The Message adds another dimension- other people. The word ‘complicity’ is stating that we are responsible for the sins of others.
This is an interesting thought. From a legalistic point of view, a good example might be the Red-light Camera Safety Program implemented at various intersections around Fort Worth. We all know that a yellow light technically means to slow down and prepare to stop because a red light is coming. What a lot of people take it to mean is to speed up so they can get through the light before it turns red. Quite a few people end up running the red light but it doesn’t stop them from repeating the same action at a later date. How many of you have gone through a light and you weren’t sure if you made it before it turned red? How many of you looked to see if someone else went through with you and then sighed with relief because in your mind, if someone else did it with you, then your wrong doing seems to be cancelled out or, at the very least, less wrong since you didn’t do it alone. Now that these cameras have been installed, it is forcing drivers to think more about their actions or face the consequences.
From a spiritual point of view, white lies might be considered equal to the red light scenario. Most, if not all, people have told a white lie but there are no cameras set up around town to catch us in the act and force us to face the consequences. What happens when a parent is overheard telling a lie by their child? Let’s say the parent is a Christian and is teaching God’s laws in the home. What is the child learning when the parent goes against what they teach? Are they learning that some lies are not sinful? To me, this is the real issue: Will the parent take responsibility for the child’s actions later when the child tells a lie to the parent and gets caught? This is where I see our complicity in other’s sins.
It doesn’t stop in the home. We, as Christians, are viewed all day, every day by other people. Some are fellow Christians, some are looking for the way and some are non-believers. What do our sins say to someone looking for the way? Are we inviting them to become a follower of Christ with a false sense of security? Yes, we are saved by grace alone but that grace should be followed by good works. Romans 2:6-8 and Hebrews 10:23-27 indicate that those who have accepted the Way and continue to deliberately sin will be judged accordingly. It is one thing to fall spiritually, confess and then get back on the horse, so to speak. We, as Christians, will sin. We cannot help it. What we can help is whether or not we do so deliberately and then whether or not we ask forgiveness for our sins. If we know that taking the Lord’s name in vain is a sin, and we continue to do so without making any effort to stop our habit, we will be judged for this. Not only for the effect it has on our spiritual destiny but also for the destiny of others who looked to us for guidance and received faulty information and direction.
In the end, you have to ask yourself some tough questions. What are you willing to be responsible for? Parents, do you wish to be responsible for the actions and subsequent consequences of your child when they run a red light because they grew up watching you do it on a regular basis? One of those consequences just may be death. Do you, as a Christian parent, wish to be responsible for your child’s spiritual destiny when they are called to the Judgment Seat and have their sins listed before them? Just how complicit are you willing to be in the lives of others?
If you wish to have more info on the Red-light Safety Camera Program in Fort Worth, visit these websites:
For an explanation of the program
For a pre-camera activation report
For a post-camera installation report