God’s wrath as revealed in Romans 1 is not so much about intervention with some cataclysmic event of judgment, but about God’s non-intervention. God who honors human freewill, will eventually hand people over to their chosen path or belief or sexual preferences or lifestyles. He allows you to have your addictions, your worldviews, your atheism and the emptiness that comes with it. Pay attention to the three italicized phrases in verses 24, 26, and 28 of Romans 1.
Romans 1:24 says “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 of 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 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 indecent acts with other men, and received in themselves the due penalty for their perversion. 28 Furthermore, since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, he gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done.
Three times Paul underscores the non-intervention of God. God doesn’t zap with wrath or bully them into doing things His way. He simply lets them have what they want in full measure.
The ultimate wrath of God is when you are so belligerent and stubborn, that God says, “OK, have it your way.” God gives you over to your beliefs or non-belief (in the case of atheism), hoping that the emptiness of it all will turn you back to Him. Many people fear the intervention of God and His punishment. But our greatest concern is the non-intervention of God and living with the life that will inevitably result from such a path taken.
A philospher once opined that when we reject truth and God, we will do one of two things: we will play god over our lives and we will live for the gratification of our senses.
We all have tried living life this way, but especially the atheist. The atheists plays god (by asserting there is no God) and having removed God and any higher purpose for living life associated with this belief, they live for the gratification of their senses. And God says, “You can do it. I’ll give you what you want.” God doesn’t have to punish us or the atheist. The pleasures that we live for punish us. Our sins punish us.
Our problem (not just atheists, but all of us) is that we want independence, total freedom from any deity, even if that deity loves us and we find Him and his ways abhorrent and objectionable. Therefore, we start playing God. You say, “I don’t want anybody telling me what’s right and what’s wrong, I want to decide what’s right and what’s wrong. I want to call my own shots. I want to make my own rules. I want to put myself at the center of the universe. I want to be my own boss, live my own way, and if it feels good, do it. I don’t want anybody telling me what to do with my life.” That’s called playing God and wanting to be at the center of my universe.
When the bottom falls out, physically, emotionally, spiritually, financially, relationally—what often happens is that God just has to step back and let us feel the full impact of our own stupid decisions. “You want to be God? O.K. You be God.” And He’ll just step back and let you be God (Romans 1) because God always honors free will. It’s not something that He enjoys in some kind of sadistic way. He just lets you have what you want. He allows you to be god and to have your pleasures.
Be careful about persisting for something that you think you want. The worst thing that could happen is that God just might give you over to it and you and I will have to live with the consequences of our own decisions.
And to my atheist friends: if you don’t want God in your life, you can have it your way. God will allow you to do it. But in the end, when your views have been pushed to their logical conclusions and life has been shattered by your non-belief, it will be one time in your life when you will wish that you never got what you wanted.