We were made to love God, but we choose to love things God made in his place – this disordering of our love has disastrous consequences.
20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.
21 For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.22 Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images made to look like a mortal human being and birds and animals and reptiles.
24 Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts to sexual impurity for the degrading of their bodies with one another. 25 They exchanged the truth about God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator—who is forever praised. Amen.
26 Because of this, God gave them over to shameful lusts. Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones. 27 In the same way the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed with lust for one another. Men committed shameful acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.
28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29 They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31 they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32 Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them.
We humans were created to reflect the image of God together; to live in God’s world as his representatives, and to rule over created things. To love God and be loved by him, and for the captivating beauty and goodness of the things he made to work to reveal his goodness and love to us.
But the image we reflect in the world has been warped; deformed. We now cast a long shadow with our lives, instead of bringing life, and love, and beauty into the world as God’s agents, we bring beauty and ugliness, life and death, love and hate. The Bible says this is a result of sin – our rejection of God as creator, and our decision, as Paul puts it here, to exchange the truth about God for a lie. To love created things – the things we were meant to rule – in the place God was meant to hold in our hearts. Our loves are now disordered; arranged around whatever we make our ‘ultimate’ love – and these ultimate loves are often great things – but not great things to arrange our whole lives around. If I make money my ‘ultimate love’ then every moment of my life is dominated by money: its earning, spending or saving, and other people become a means to an ends. I’ll be tempted to take shortcuts, to exploit, to be stingy instead of generous… to use money for ‘me’, and so, I’ll ultimately be ruled by money and so deformed by it. My ‘image’ will reflect this love. If I make sex the ultimate love then life becomes about getting as much sex as possible, on my own terms, and people become objects of my desire (so I lust), or competition (so I envy).
Paul says this decision about what to love ultimately – about what to worship – either deforms us (Romans 1) or reforms us (Romans 8 and 12). Our ability to be God’s image bearers, and even to love God and others, hangs on where God sits in the order of our loves.
If we disconnect ourselves from his love for us, and from who he creates us to be, and seek to create our own lives according to our own desires by exchanging him for the things he made, then Paul says we have “no love” in us; and worse, that we deserve death.
Jesus invites us to re-order our loves. To become new creations. To put God first in our hearts and to move away from the patterns of the world – the life produced by the love for ‘created things’ and to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. To worship and serve the creator again, and so to live and love like he did. To bear his image in the world again.
Head: Can you think about times where your love for something other than God has produced bad results for you and others?
Heart: What are the created things you are tempted to order your life around, instead of God?
Hands: How might you ‘re-order’ your loves by re-ordering your life? What changes can you make to how you order your life so that you re-order your loves? Think about a change you can make to how you order your life: your day, physical space, or money, to practice putting God first in your heart.
Prayer: Father, Thank you for making a good and beautiful world full of things that I love. Help me see your goodness as I encounter these things and so hold you first in my heart, not those things. Help me be thankful. Help me to order my love, and my life, around who you are so that I’m re-formed into the image of Jesus, and so reflect your image to others. Amen
A song to listen to: You are my King
Nathan Campbell- Creek Road Presbyterian Church- South Bank