Tasting Poison: Romans 3 and the Academy Awards

On Monday morning I read Romans 3. On Sunday evening I caught the last hour of the Academy Awards. The last hour of the Academy Awards is the hour in which the same five or so films are nominated for pretty much everything - films that are celebrated as the year's best stories. I have seen none of these films (Juno, No Country for Old Men, There Will be Blood, Michael Clayton, Atonement, Once) but following their celebration I was curious to see them, the movies of the year. I read their reviews, noticed their ratings, investigated their plots. Now I know I will not see them, I crave a greater story. Within that context I spent part of the morning reflecting on the meaning of Romans 3 and its relationship to our culture.

The viper does not taste his poison. Death resides in his mouth. His throat is a grave. He swallows all things whole. Everything the Asp swallows is intentionally laced with his poison.

Can we taste our poison? On Sunday Hollywood handed out trophies for stories deemed intelligent, inspiring, quality – good. They were stories celebrated with cash in the temples of our culture; by buying them we approved them. With our eyes we swallowed them. The most celebrated stories of 2007 were laced with blood, deception, addiction, bitterness, failure, death, and perhaps only token glimmers of hope. The predominant image of atonement is no longer sacrifice but sex. Our most celebrated stories laced with poison, swallowed whole, seldom questioned – only leaving us an appetite for more – more graphic, more intense, more traumatic. . .more. This year we will be fed again, swallowing images, stories intentionally laced with our own poison.

We have seen so much we can no longer taste our poison.

The Bible is a greater story. True it is considered archaic, unintelligent, and narrow, but the Bible has a power to make us taste poison, to come to the realization that there is something greater than constantly swallowing death. True, the gospel is confrontational; no one wants to be a viper. But until we come to terms with our own reality and given a craving much sweeter than poison we will continue to think there is nothing in our world worth celebrating other than death, bitterness, addiction, violence, and cursing. We will continue to believe that there is only token hope. Do we really believe that sex means love and unbridled passion makes all things right? Is your life a movie? You know. Your life is a story in reality. Off the screen death is traumatic loss – the characters in your world have feelings that are not rectified with credits. Off the screen sex does not mean love and there is a greater price to be paid for atonement.
Ironically, the Bible gives us the first taste of our own poison; it is the mirror of our soul. Those who taste their poison are given a new craving, no longer the taste of death but of life. What is the taste of life, redemption, sacrifice . . . what is the taste of hope? What is the taste of true love? What is the taste of atonement? The Bible gives us our first taste of poison that we may crave salvation, a greater story that can become our reality.

As it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one. Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive. The venom of asps is under their lips. Their mouth is full of curses and bitterness. Their feet are swift to shed blood; in their paths are ruin and misery, and the way of peace they have not known. There is no fear of God before their eyes. Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God. For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.

But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: Romans 3:10-22 (ESV)


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