Ripped From the Headlines...
Ever watch any of those crime dramas on tv with story lines that are "ripped from the headlines"? They basically take whatever the shocking stories of the day are, fictionalize them, and make an episode around playing out that story. In some ways, it helps us process the emotions we have and clarify our thoughts regarding those scandals and news stories. I mean, I guess it does that in theory...I never actually watch any of those shows.
My point is this...as the weekly Bible study that I am a part of works through the book of Romans, I am amazed at how easy it is to connect Paul's letter to the church in Rome to my life as a Christian living outside of Philly in 2012. In researching Romans Chapter 1, I found statements from 19th & 20th century pastors who found the contents of that chapter too shocking and embarassing to even read out loud in public. Sadly, it doesn't seem that outrageous at all in our modern, sin saturated culture.
The encouragement that we can take from all of this is that people have been exchanging the truth of God for a lie dating all of the way back to the Garden of Eden. Wait a minute...that isn't encouraging, it's discouraging! The encouraging part is that God hasn't given up on us or forsaken us. He immediately began enacting a plan for our salvation and redemption through the life, death & resurrection of His only Son. The situation looked pretty grim in the days of Paul and the Roman world. The same was true in the days of Abraham, the days of Daniel, the days of Nehemiah, the days of Joshua, and up to the days of Abe Lincoln and Martin Luther King Jr. Throughout history, man's depravity is always discouraging...but it should constantly drive us to repentance, prayer and the eternal hope that is always available in Jesus.