Many times this last half of Romans chapter 1 is quoted to heap condemnation on those who struggle in a few particular areas of sin--mostly sexual sin. If we read the passage and stop before chapter 2, verse 1, we often feel pretty holy in comparison to all "those people" that Paul is describing who live their lives apart from God. Surely we don't fall into the category of "wickedness, evil, greed and depravity."
We feel really safe until we look deeper into these words and find that evil is really better translated "injustice," and greed better understood as "wanting more." Injustice is not giving God and people their due. Who among us has never shortchanged God or our fellow human beings in love, kindness, and compassion? Who among us is completely satisfied with what we have and do not desire more?
It is important for us to recognize our place in this fallen state so that we can accept what Paul tells us in the opening verses of chapter 2. " You, therefore, have no excuse, you who pass judgment on someone else, for at whatever point you judge the other, you are condemning yourself, because you who pass judgment do the same things." These things bring death and destruction into our lives and the lives of others around us. God will not look more kindly on our sin than the sins of others.
We like that God has kindness, patience and tolerance for our sin. His kindness brings us to repentance. We lose sight of this truth when we call God's wrath down on others. His kindness, tolerance, and patience applies to all because his desire is to draw all mankind to himself. When we justify ourselves while condemning others we show that our hearts are not in unity with his. "But because of your stubbornness and your unrepentant heart, you are storing up wrath against yourself for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgment will be revealed."
The next few verses are a further emphasis that God's judgment is based on our actions and our knowledge or awareness of what is good. He is leading and driving us toward the ultimate declaration in chapter 3, verse 23 "For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." The key challenge in today's scripture is to lay down our stubbornness and un-repentance, recognize our place in the fallen world and seek God's free forgiveness.
God has grace for all of our sins, whether great or small. He wants to bring forgiveness and healing into our lives. What we must do is surrender to his grace all the broken, wounded, and corrupted places in our hearts and lives.