Yeah, he was my friend, but he had this annoying habit of everytime I told a story, he would come back with another story meant to be even more interesting or scary or funny than mine. Have you ever known someone who simply had to “one up” you every time you said or did anything? Yep, annoying, like I said.
But there are times when I was stuck in a rut in my life when that same friend seemed to have a way out of every problem I had. He had this uncanny ability to see clearly through all my difficulties to answers to my problems I simply didn’t see. It was very important to me, personally, because it taught me never to give up, even when I didn’t see how to get out of the mess I was in. Eventually, it seemed that there simply wasn’t a difficulty in life that didn’t have an answer! Very encouraging, don’t you think?
Look at our lesson today in Romans 5:17-21; 6:1-2:
Brethren, if, because of one man’s trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous. Law came in, to increase the trespass; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it?
St. Paul keeps insisting the Roman Christians and, by extension, all of us embrace this clear teaching of the sufficiency of Jesus Christ as the savior of the whole world. And Paul insists that all of this salvation is accomplished by God’s grace. Our response to His grace determines whether we are alive or “dead in our trespasses.”
Paul repeats what he’s said before: One man’s disobedience leads to death, and one Man’s obedience leads to Life. Adam’s sin unleashes death into the world, and we humans have been mercifully granted the seperation of the spirit and the body so that there is no way for our sin to be eternal! Did you get that? Yep, one of the fathers of the Church actually said that God has gifted humanity with physical death so that our sin wouldn’t be committed forever. Sin is temporary. Turns out, so is death.
Because Jesus Christ comes as the “second Adam” to untie the knots Adam tied in his short sighted failure. Jesus acts completely righteous in human flesh and destroys death by death and grants life to the whole world. Everyone is going to live forever. Period. Death is defeated. Life is granted to all. Now the only issue is, will you know how to enjoy eternal life?
And then Paul gives us such an encouraging word that, if we have the humility and courage to believe it, will forever change the way we live every day. He says that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more.” All the sin of all the humans in all the world could not, does not, cannot be greater or overwhelm God’s grace. In fact all the sins that have been, are, or ever will be committed in all the universe are drowned in the always larger sea of God’s grace. If sin could overcome God’s grace then sin would be god. No! All sin is no match for God’s grace and mercy. Wherever sin exists, the grace to overcome it exists even more!
And that means you should NEVER believe there is no hope for you. You can’t sin so much that God will stop loving you. You can’t. You simply don’t have that kind of power, and your mistakes certainly can’t exhaust the mercy of God.
Today, are you struggling under the false notion that you’ve done too many bad things to be forgiven? Do you suffer from shame of past mistakes that are keeping you from ever believing God still loves you? Stop right there and know what you feel isn’t true. God loves you more than you, yourself, know how to love. And he waits with open arms to forgive you and make you Orthodox on Purpose!