“... for though they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their senseless minds were darkened.”
~Romans 1:21 (NRSV).
Dark words these certainly are, but they’re appropriate in context. The Apostle Paul utters them, we might contemplate, in a spirit of his own contempt for such a spiritual oddity—these self-righteous ones are patently deceived.
At times, however, people are victims of their environments.
I’ve long felt for professions like police, prison guards, and teachers in difficult schools etc. These people are subjected to the worst of moral humanity, though not all they deal with are like this. Still, the general environment they’re subject to leads many a person to a darker place. If people in these situations are not careful they run the risk of a spiritual darkening.
This is what Paul’s alluding to. The life circumstances of many blind them away from true confession of God—even in some cases where they pledge a hard allegiance to the Jesus.
They ‘Knew’ God
There will always be people who think they’ve got God squared away, when the real revelation is we can never truly know God. (This is why being passionate in seeking God is always blessed protection.)
Who knows the mind of the Lord? His thoughts and ways are so far above ours (Isaiah 55:8-9).
This is one of Satan’s tricks. He gets believers to think they know enough of God to judge; to self-assess and to ‘assess’ others. A little knowledge is dangerous. Mix that with an outlook that’s dark (joylessly pragmatic, looking for evil) and there’s the recipe for the unveiling of ‘false Christs,’ slander of the church and other aberrations of Christian spirituality. But, first and foremost they don’t know God. And the following explains it.
Signs of Light
The First Letter of John goes into detail regarding aspects of light and true belief; this is represented in the ability to love (1 John 1:7; 2:8-10). Light and love are connected.
People who have the light of re-birth life can’t help being attractive spiritually; that is, they’re humbly charismatic because they live hopeful and generous lives. They tend to see the good in things, not the bad (though everyone struggles to see the good all the time).
Signs of light beckon from within the one that God’s got—it can’t be any other way.
The test for the believer is this: how much love is in their lives? How much joy do they experience, for joy is merely a manifestation of love? Of course, the big disclaimer here is on those believers experiencing somewhat a ‘dark night of the soul’ and most will have it at some stage or other. This is not about those.
The Ability to ‘Honour’ and ‘Give Thanks’
The Amplified Version talks about people with “senseless minds [that] were darkened” in ways that they experience “vain imaginings, foolish reasoning and stupid speculations.” Many of us sympathise. But for most people with light, darkness is fleeting at best; quickly comes repentance from nonsensical thinking.
The one affirmative action that expels a dark heart from corrupting the mind is honouring God and giving thanks. The psalms have it right; it comes down to praise of God’s greatness and thanks for the goodness of God to us. But those in their dark thinking will not choose to see this.
The key message in all this is: Let’s pray most of all that we’re not deceived. Praise and thankfulness will ward against such deception.
© 2011 S. J. Wickham.