Understanding today’s passage depends on remembering
our single humanity. Adam and Eve, standing in for us all,
chose not just sin but death itself. Our problem ever since is not
that we sin but that in the broadest sense of the term, we die.
Our bodies die; our relationships die; crops die; the very earth
is dying. Sin and death, then, make up the human race’s fundamental
condition. Paul tells us that Jesus Christ came to repair
that condition for us all.
Symbolically, Adam and Eve chose death for the human
race. God has now given us Christ as our new Founder. But the
parallel with Adam and Eve is not an exact one. Sin and death
result from the bad choice of our first parents. Our new life in
Jesus Christ, the second Adam, however, does not come about
by anything we do ourselves but strictly from God’s gift of grace.
The interesting aspect to note is that the actions and choices
of both Adam and Jesus affect everyone. In Adam and Eve we
are all sinners who die. In Jesus Christ we are all freed from the
necessity of sin, made right with God (justified), and given the
promise of eternal life. Just as we are all included in Adam and
Eve, now we are all, as Christians, incorporated into the second
Adam in the new creation. Paul says we become part of the second
Adam, the new collective humanity, through baptism, for
which Lent prepares us.
We seldom think of ourselves as anything other than individuals
who live in a larger society. The pattern of thought in
which we first identify ourselves as part of humanity are unfamiliar
in our time. We have done great damage to one another in
our failure to recognize that truth. Lent provides a good time to
ponder how we are to live as part of the human race!
Loving God, may we understand and follow what Paul is talking about: our intimate relationship to all human beings first, and second, our relationship to one another in Christ. Amen.
The texts for Ash Wednesday are all ominous in nature, pointing forward to the redemptive power of God’s grace. Lent is a time when Christians reflect on their mortality and sin, as well as on the creative and re-creative power of God. The original parents of humanity could not resist the seduction of the serpent, but that narrative stands beside the story of Jesus’ lonely and painful resistance to the power of Satan. In Romans, the “one man’s obedience” by which “the many will be made righteous” is the quality that endures. The Joel passage is an alarm bell in the darkness of the night. Those who are caught in this terrible moment cannot hope to save themselves, for they are powerless to do anything on their own behalf. They are powerless to do anything, that is, except to repent and to open themselves to God’s intervening mercy.
• Read Genesis 2:15-17; 3:1-7. What choices have you made that put you outside God’s intention for your life?
• Read Psalm 32. Are there unconfessed wrongdoings in your life that need God’s forgiveness? Will this Lent be a time when you can nd the freedom forgiveness brings?
• Read Romans 5:12-19. Have you experienced a relationship that has died? How has God renewed that time in your life?
• Read Matthew 4:1-11. What has tempted you to set faith aside and to trust only in yourself? How did that work out?
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