Well, one has to be foolhardy to take this subject on - don't you think?
This is a short essay on the 'therefore' of Romans 8:1. David has asked the usual difficult question. What if someone 'came out' to you...
If David weren't who he seems to be, I would not bother responding. Wait a minute! Is any of us who we seem to be? Why do we judge each other so - whether for good or not? Hear again that verse, Romans 8:1, with which we have ended for the moment a long conversation on the preposition 'in'.
1: There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.
That there is no condemnation does not mean there is no work to do. But the work is done in a different context from the assumption that we know what is right before we start. The different context is in the 7 chapters that precede the 'therefore' of this verse.
Notice that I have not put law and grace in my title - but law and faith. Note the pattern of 'condemn' throughout the first 8 chapters - with only a brief reminder in the paranetic sections (12-15). [update: this pattern is dubious since I don't do much Greek - but I notice a serious concentration of judge (part of the same word condemn) in chapters 3 and 14.]
Romans 2:1 you condemn yourselfI have been reading the work of C.H. Dodd on Greek and Hebrew words. I won't cite his chapter and verse, because scholarly authority is not what I am looking for here. I am looking for that authority that I have reflected on before. Do we hear the voice of the Shepherd in our understanding of law? Torah, teaching in Hebrew is a much richer word than the Greek for law implies. The Greek for law, I understand is much richer than the notion of legal and can include custom in its view. Whether these are true statements or not, Paul has set up the fear of law in the first 7 chapters of Romans, because that's how we meet law, teaching, and custom as children and as adults anxious to be acceptable to others. Not because that sort of fear is a wholesome response to reality. Then in chapter 8, Paul uses law in a completely different sense:
Romans 2:27 they will condemn you
Romans 3:7 why am I still being condemned
Romans 3:8 Their condemnation is just
Romans 5:16 judgment following one trespass brought condemnation
Romans 5:18 one human's trespass led to condemnation
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation...
Romans 8:3 he condemned sin in the flesh
Romans 8:33 It is God who justifies; who is to condemn?
Romans 14:23 But the one who has doubts is condemned, if he eats, because one does not act from faith; for whatever does not proceed from faith is sin.
2: For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death.
No one in Christ should consider themselves alive on their own terms. All of us and each of us has died to the flesh - if we are in Christ. This includes homosexual and heterosexual alike. I doubt we have done this well. But if it is done, there will be less doubt about God's ability to deal with our whole selves, whoever we are. And for anyone, the fact of the matter (to read and hear the Shepherd's voice) is that it is done (John 19:30). Whether we did it well or not or even not at all, he did it well and completely, and we are 'in him'.
3: For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as a sin offering, he condemned sin in the flesh,
It is finished. And we are invited into its completion and the new creation that is at the place where we meet God, where we know God's presence to us in the Spirit, that is, in the Holy Place where Jesus died. We are all invited and encouraged to enter. There are no conditions. In that place, do you think God does not know how to deal with sex? This is after all the Bridegroom we are talking about.
4: in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.
The just requirement of the law is fulfilled in us who belong to Christ, who have put on Christ, who are in Christ. Do we judge who belongs or who has put on Christ by their dishonesty? Do we not accept those who tell us the truth about themselves? In David's words - who 'come out of the closet'.
5: For those according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.
We do judge within limits. What hurts or destroys others is not of the Spirit. We don't do things that way. Not by might nor by power. But we do not judge by what we do not know. Suspend your judgment in case you are judging in the flesh rather than in the Spirit. Suspend your judgment by the power of the cross for you. Say, I cannot judge, for I have died - I cannot do anything. Then you will begin to know because the Spirit who raised our Lord Jesus from the dead will inform you. And he will similarly inform the one who has 'come out'. And that - as Jesus said in the case of the youngster who threw himself in the fire - is a matter for prayer, not for the judgment of condemnation.
6: To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace.
This verse applies to all in Christ. To set the mind on the condemning view of the law is death. There is no condemnation - that means those of us who think we know better do not condemn and do not judge, and those of use who are weak are not condemned or judged by those who think they are strong.
7: For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God's law, indeed it cannot; 8: and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Does it come as a surprise that these verses must also apply to the one who judges? It is not the righteous who need salvation. If we already knew the answers then why did Christ die?
So what am I to do for the one who says to me - "I believe what God has done for me in Christ. I am in Christ. I stake my claim. I have been truthful with you. I have revealed the depths of my heart and I am going to live my life according to what I know of myself in Christ."
If I have heard these words - can I still condemn this person? (I admit I have added to David's statement, but those who are not in Christ are not who I am considering here.)
If I want to please God, then I will listen to this verse and I will not condemn this person. I will in the words that follow 'put to death the deeds' of my own body so that I too can live. I will crucify my desire to tell this person that they can't possibly be right and think the way they do.
What have I done to the law? Have I denied the reality of God's condemnation of sin? Not at all! I have established God's teaching in a way I could not imagine outside the work of the Spirit in me. How do I know it is God's Spirit working in me? Because I have done this through the death of Jesus. I have crucified more than this imaginary example. Once I see the work to be done in Christ more clearly, then in my joy, I will know that my earlier understandings were incorrect and incomplete and I can trust that my friend and brother or sister who came out to me will similarly find completeness in him.
So David, do I judge you for your judgment against me or against your friend? No. But I invite you to take the harder path and to restrain your condemnation in case God has more in mind than you think.
(I see I am not alone in responding to David. I may be alone in basing my response on Paul!)