By David Baumann
Reading from Romans, 5:12-21
12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned — 13sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come. 15But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification. 17If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ. 18Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Twice have I talked with members of my churches about genealogy, and both times discovered that I was tenth cousin to the person I was talking to. That means that nine generations back, we had a common ancestor. This is probably not unusual. A few years ago, archeologists discovered human bones in Africa whose DNA showed ancestral ties to every human being. In ways far beyond our ability to quantify, all people alive now are somehow related.
Paul teaches that in a mysterious, non-quantifiable way, the fallenness of human nature is similarly universal. We are born into sin; we participate in it; our life is tangled up in it like a web. We cannot know what actually happened way back in time, yet many ancient stories tell us that things were once paradisal, but now they are irretrievably corrupt; and now we all live lives with wistful vague remembrance of “good ol’ days,” a longing for a better future, and current frustration and dissatisfaction.
“Sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin.” As soon as we recognize and accept that there isn’t a thing we can do to get ourselves out of this mess, we become able to receive grace from Another. Only the one who is simultaneously fully human and uncorrupted by our tragedy — without sin — could be our chance to start again.
Jesus is a second prototype of humanity, Adam 2.0. The divine love that made the worlds will also remake them. Even human love knows something of this power, and human love infused with Jesus knows it with almost uncontainable joy: “Above all, love one another deeply, since love covers a multitude of sins” (1 Pet. 4:8).
David Baumann has been an Episcopal priest for 45 years, 39 of them in the Diocese of Los Angeles. He now serves as part-time priest in southern Illinois. He has published devotions, articles, and essays, as well as science fiction novels and short stories.
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