In my last Grace Economy post, I nutshelled one aspect of grace in simple terms:
The Grace Economy.
Love, kindness, and mercy leads to excruciating sacrifice—for the enemy.
And the enemy is loved and given an invaluable gift…at no cost…because it can’t be bought.
“We have met the enemy and he is us.” ~ Pogo, Walt Kelly
Maybe a bit simplistic, this quote was one of the first things that came to mind. Is it overly simplistic? Maybe…or maybe not. Removed from the original 1970 comic context, it’s not entirely honest in its presentation here. Truth is, when I start looking, the words fit more than I want to admit.
Back to Romans I go.
There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away, together they have become useless; there is no one who does good, there is not even one. Romans 3:10b-12
Pardon me while I get a little personal. I’m not perfect. You’re not perfect, either. Every one of us may be just a bit too comfortable doing things our own way, doing selfish things, or even downright wrong things. Maybe the truth is sugarcoated when we feel the need to exonerate our choices, or our failures plop us right in the middle of the hog’s wallow of despair for a while. If I’m honest, saying I don’t make the grade of perfection is a bit euphemistic. (This is not the most encouraging or uplifting part of the whole thing, but I know it has great value.)
But, does it really matter?
We’ve been over some poignant verses already, including:
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 6:23 HSC
If you’ve been reading along, you know this single verse is like one of those over-sized, heavy, creaking antique iron hinges—a lot of weight hangs and turns on just this. The tension sits in the fulcrum of that comma. One side of the comma, there is sin and death; the other side, there is eternal life.
The Greek word “death” is thanatos (Strong’s G2288) and translates, according to Blue Letter Bible:
1) the death of the body
a) that separation (whether natural or violent) of the soul and the body by which the life on earth is ended
b) with the implied idea of future misery in hell
1) the power of death
c) since the nether world, the abode of the dead, was conceived as being very dark, it is equivalent to the region of thickest darkness i.e. figuratively, a region enveloped in the darkness of ignorance and sin
2) metaph., the loss of that life which alone is worthy of the name,
a) the misery of the soul arising from sin, which begins on earth but lasts and increases after the death of the body in hell
3) the miserable state of the wicked dead in hell
4) in the widest sense, death comprising all the miseries arising from sin, as well physical death as the loss of a life consecrated to God and blessed in him on earth, to be followed by wretchedness in hell
I feel bookish including Greek or Hebrew Lexicon information, but it’s like eating veggies for me. It’s good for me, and it strengthens me in surprising ways. Feel free to “talk amongst yourselves,” if it’s not as interesting or helpful to you, but I like challenging my understanding of a word, even the basic ones.
No sane person argues that the body dies. The relationship of births to deaths is a strong 1:1 correlation. The separation of soul and body and life on this earth ending adds some additional insight. When I get to the “implied idea of future misery,” I’m stopped cold. When I read the definitions, it takes a mere nanosecond to see how many variations of “misery” show up. The putrid crop of sin yields misery and death (and not just bodily death).
There is huge contrast on the other side of that comma, and I want to go there, but I can’t today. I need time and space to sit with the fruit of the crop of sin that just reeks (now there’s a fragrance reference I sort of understand under certain conditions). There’s something about knowing where the road leads that I want to deeply understand. All of us, but especially me, miss perfection by a hundred country miles.
Plain and simple. The starting point is death. Did anyone else feel the agony of that misery at some point? Did pain get your attention like it got mine?
The end of the story for us doesn’t have to be death. That’s nothing short of awesome, and I need to set my heart and mind toward that good news in light of the death I’ve written about today. It’s pretty depressing, if I don’t.
For now, I’ll wrap up with prayer thoughts:
Dear God, let me be one who does understand, who does seek you! I desperately want to turn toward you—to be useful—to do good. When circumstances tempt me to invent my own understanding or choose my own next move apart from your wisdom made available to me, let me stop (dead, as it were) in my tracks!
The other side of the comma is coming…
Thanks for reading along; I hope this wasn’t too hard to read.