Is the glass half-empty or half-full? It’s an interesting question based on perspective. One can look at the very same glass of water, and from angle the glass appears to be half-empty, but from another it’s half-full. It’s similar to optical illusions or pictures that play tricks on the mind. For the longest time an image will appear one way, and then with just the slightest change, it’s completely different.
Sometimes scripture is the same way. A passage will be read and interpreted the same way over and over again until finally, one small change is made and suddenly, the whole passage takes on a new dimension.
Romans 5 is a half-empty type of passage. Sin leads to death. Paul states this phrase over and over again. We are weak and ungodly. Sin, which came into the world because of Adam choosing to reach out and eat from the tree, has spread to all of humanity. All of humanity sins, and because of that death has spread to all humankind. Ever since that first sin, death has had dominion over the whole world.
This is really just an expansion of where Paul starts in chapter 1. For the wrath of God is revealed against all ungodliness. For although all of humanity knew God, they did not honor or give thanks to God, and exchanged their own glory for images of humans and beasts. Because they did not honor God, God gave them over to their shameful lusts and passions, and they became filled with all types of envy, murder, strife, gossip, slander, and rebellion. They became heartless, ruthless, and foolish, because even though they knew God’s decrees, they did not practice them.
Paul could just as easily be describing life today, because just as sin had marred the world of the first century, it has marred our world today. God made the world pure and good, but sin distorts God’s good gifts to make them destructive. Food is a good gift of God, but sin distorts it so that through either over eating or under eating food becomes destructive. Sex is a good gift of God, but sin distorts it so that it becomes a destructive force in our society. Because of these truths, it’s easy to look around and see a glass half-empty. Sin breeds death. Death is a curse of the fall. We can’t escape it, death is everywhere.
Yet a slight change of perspective makes Romans 5 a half-full type of passage.
“But there is a great difference between Adam’s sin and God’s gracious gift. For the sin of this one man, Adam, brought death to many. But even greater is God’s wonderful grace and his gift of forgiveness to many through this other man, Jesus Christ.” (Romans 5:15 NLT)
The free gift is not like the trespass. If sin brings death, how much more will the free gift of God bring life. If judgment following one trespass brings condemnation, the free gift offered by God brings justification with God. If sin reigned because of one sin, how much more will the free gift of grace and forgiveness rule because of God’s gracious act. Yes, we all sin, and the world is full of sin, but sin is not the final word. Yes, death is in the world, but even more so there is life. Yes, there are places and times when it appears that sin is running rampant and that the voices of good and light can’t even be heard, but the truth is, the free gift of God is so much greater than any of the evil or wickedness that is sometimes here. It’s not just that the free gift of God offered through Jesus (the new Adam) counteracts the death and sin from the first trespass; the free gift of God actually eradicates the first sin. It completely and forever undoes the effects of sin and death. Sin may still be a part of our world, but it does not reign. Christ reigns and sin will be cast into the abyss of the sea.
We now live in a new reality because of the free gift of Jesus Christ. Paul even elaborates on it in Romans. Chapter 6, we have been raised with Christ and become instruments of God. Romans 8, there is no condemnation, and nothing can separate us from God’s love. Romans 12, therefore, since we have new life in Christ, we offer our bodies as living sacrifices to God, wholly consumed on the altar, given over to God.
We may remember our sins, but we live in a new reality. We have been given new life so we freely share our possessions with others. We have been given new life, so we look for ways to promote and honor others. We have been given new life, so we life lives of integrity and truth even in the midst of alternate facts and half-truths. We have been given new life, so everything that we have is defined by God’s standard.
This is now who we are in Christ. Our perspective has changed. We are not defined by sin, but by life. I once was lost but now I’m found. I once was dead, but now, I am alive.