I read about a bear that broke into a house in Aspen. In trying to coax the bear out of the house, the man who was living there was swiped by the bear. The man nearly lost an eye.
One interesting thing about that episode is it never really was clear why the bear entered the house. There wasn’t any food sitting out for the bear to pursue. Another interesting thing about that episode is the bear showed the ability to open doors. It turned a number of door handles as it moved around the house. It was like the bear had been there before.
It made me wonder what I would do if I got up in the middle of the night – like that man in Aspen – and found a bear in the living room. I know what some of you would do! Suffice it to say, that bear wasn’t where it belonged.
The word “sin” means to “miss the mark.” But there was another way Paul described sin in Romans 5 that is instructive. He called it “transgression” – as in the “transgression of Adam.”
The word “transgression” brings to mind the idea of crossing a boundary of some kind – of going past some limit that ought not to be crossed. We can transgress when we speak words or do something that doesn’t match the social moment. We can transgress when we physically go somewhere we ought not to be – like a bear in the living room.
Transgression is one way to describe sin. Adam transgressed when he ate from the tree that God said was off-limits. Adam crossed a boundary.
We can transgress the Law of God in an untold number of ways. A person can tell a lie about another person. A child can disrespect his or her parents.
A person can harbor anger against a brother or sister. Much more, a person can turn that anger into bitterness that lasts years. A person can actually keep a long list of grievances, dating back decades, against someone else and refuse to let go of that grudge – refuse to forgive.
A person can have lustful thoughts about a man or a woman. Much more, a person can act on those thoughts and have an illicit affair with another person, breaking one’s vows to a spouse and to God.
A person can cheat the system for financial gain. A person can cheat a business partner. Much more, a person can cheat his or her neighbors by cheating the tax code, stealing one’s owed taxes from the people of the land.
A person can become so angry at another person that her or she physically harms that person. Much more, a person can become so angry that he or she actually murders someone else. Much more, on a national or global scale, some people can attain to such power that they can commit genocide – wiping out entire tribes or races of people from their lands.
Of course, none of this is new to us. This is sin. This is transgression. And we see this kind of thing happening all around us. We can read about this kind of thing in news stories published daily. Some of us have engaged in some of these very things in our lives. Much more, some of us may be engaged in some of these activities even now.
Romans 5 paints a picture of sin and transgression spreading through humanity like a virus. Sin came into the world through one man and spread to all of us. It is in our very nature to sin. It’s what we do. And we know that sin – or we will know tomorrow (Romans 6:23) – has an ultimate consequence: death. The Aspen bear discovered that. We will, too.
But as you know by now, there’s a “much more” to this. The free gift is not like the trespass. It is “much more” than even the “much more” of every sin or transgression we can imagine. Listen to Paul’s words:
“For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many.”
“For 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.”
“Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.”
“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.”
“More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.”
The free gift of God’s grace is FOR sinners. We need to realize this or we will not understand Christianity at all. Christ died FOR sinners. That was the whole point. The “much more” of our sins and transgressions against God cannot compare to the “much more” of the free gift of grace through Jesus Christ.
Paul would want us to know here that it doesn’t matter how wretched we have been in our lives. It doesn’t matter how many places and spaces we’ve entered where we did not belong, how many offenses we’ve made against God and humanity.
There is “much more” grace than that when we come to Jesus Christ in faith.