Christianity & Culture Sunday School: Session 1
Romans 2: Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? 5 But in accordance with your hardness and your impenitent heart you are treasuring up for yourself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, 6 who “will render to each one according to his deeds”: 7 eternal life to those who by patient continuance in doing good seek for glory, honor, and immortality; 8 but to those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness—indignation and wrath, 9 tribulation and anguish, on every soul of man who does evil, of the Jew first and also of the Greek; 10 but glory, honor, and peace to everyone who works what is good, to the Jew first and also to the Greek.
Paul says that in the end there are only two ways: the way of glory and the way of wrath. Those who by patient continuance in doing good, seek glory, honor, and immortality receive what they seek. But those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, they receive the evil they have done.
What is Glory?
When we hear the word “glory” we frequently immediately collapse into pseudo-spiritual land thinking of halos and ethereal clouds. While it is true that God is full of glory, this means that the world He made is also full of glory. Glory is beautiful, impressive, overwhelming, awe-inspiring. In creation we see glory in hurricanes, sunsets, solar eclipses, tornadoes, rainbows, animals, insects, etc. But since people are made in the image of God, people reflect His glory. People are beautiful, handsome, attractive, strong, skilled, impressive. People accomplish great feats: climb mountains, invent things, perform pieces of music, athletic triumphs, are courageous in battle. Other glories: stories, plays, jokes, fine food, babies, love, etc.
Glory is a Good Thing
All of this is to point out that glory is a good thing. God is full of glory, and He made a world full of glory for His people to investigate, uncover, discover, invent, enjoy, and celebrate. God made people for glory. God made the world and people for creating, sharing, and enjoying His glory. And this includes all the wonderful gifts of God: steak, beer, iPhones, dancing, rock climbing, basketball, baking, V8 engines, etc. God loves glory, and He is glorified when His people love glory, love beauty, love excellence, love courage, love to shine.
All culture outside of Christ is built on either borrowing from the real glory of God or constructing false, fake glory. But rest assured that everyone is chasing glory: “You don’t know you’re beautiful/That’s what makes you beautiful.” That’s a statement and an entire song about glory. Therefore, it is our responsibility to understand the difference between false glory and true glory. Paul says in Romans that the difference is between “self seeking” and “doing evil” on the one hand and “patient continuance in doing good” on the other hand. False glory is impatient. It grabs, grasps, and demands. It doesn’t mind trampling people in the process. And since there is either no god or some kind of idol supporting this false glory, the source of glory is not infinite goodness. For Christians, the Triune God is full of infinite goodness and glory. That means there is plenty of glory for everyone. But if there is a limited supply of glory, only so much to go around, then there is incentive to push, pull, and elbow your way to the top of the pile. Can you see evidence of these different kinds of glory in the world around you?
God made people for glory. He made them to shine, to be glorious, satisfied, praised, honored. We were created for that, and so we naturally want it. The world offers false versions of glory: love/sex now, popularity now, short cuts now, and promises fame, love, friendships, popularity. Our problem shouldn’t be with the glory, our problem should be with the fact that it’s a false version of the real thing. Jesus didn’t die on the cross in order to lose; Jesus died in order to win. He suffered shame for the joy that was set before Him, and now He has been exalted to the right hand of the Father and given the name above every name. Jesus has been given real glory, and it is His mission to bring you and all the world into that glory.