I am an international criminal. Yes, it's true. In two countries, U.S. and Canada, I have been nabbed in the process of breaking the speed limit laws of the road. I was guilty of breaking written law.
Ah— but there was a third country, Scotland, where I drove a wide mini-bus through old narrow streets on the left side of the road. While I don't think I broke any actual, written laws, my ignorance doesn't keep me from being guilty of scaring the population of Glasgow… as well as my passengers… and of perhaps breaking the laws (especially cultural understandings) of roundabouts and right-of-ways and probably even speeds on unposted streets…
And I started thinking this morning, "This is what Romans 5:13-14 is talking about."
*Now, Summer has returned and it's time to commit to writing reflections on the book of Romans once again. When I left off I was studying chapter 5 – a mixture of great news and unpopular topics sprinkled with sugar. Verse 12 was an introduction to why we're all messed up today – because Adam sinned. His dismissal of life brought us death, his rejection of truth brought us lies, his deliberate selfishness brought us antagonizing misery. Every generation has paid the price of sin and every person has followed in his limping steps.
I'd rather start off these devotional studies again with something light-hearted and hope-filled. But to walk faithfully through this text, to which I owe my life, I'll ask God to shape me according to these words today. So bear with me in these words. Verses 13-14 of Romans 12 say this:
13 To be sure, sin was in the world before the law was given, but sin is not charged against anyone’s account where there is no law. 14 Nevertheless, death reigned from the time of Adam to the time of Moses, even over those who did not sin by breaking a command, as did Adam, who is a pattern of the one to come. - Romans 5:13-14 (NIV)
The lists of rules, and therefore the lists of sin, are long today. Adam's list was only 1. Since Adam, people have broken so many rules, laws, commands, instructions… and many times not even intentionally. Rules within rules have been created to stem the tide of sin, and still we meander into ever-increasing levels of yuck. Every person is guilty on a macro and micro scale. And the debt-weight of our guilt is too much for our ailing hearts to continue to prop-up and pump.
Verses 13-14 affirm this sad fact. Adam couldn't really compile a long list of sin as we could today. He would have been ignorant of all of God's patterns and commands. But that didn't make him innocent. He broke the one official command he was given… and in the process he broke countless other rights that resonated with walking in the culture of God. His list is as awful as ours… and ours is as awful as his.
He didn't know all the sins he was committing… but he knew the one. We don't know scores of the sins we commit… and yet still follow-through with scores of sins that we know are breaking God's patterns. We have no excuse. But neither did Adam. Neither does anyone with or without the full list of laws.
And watch out, World. I'll probably keep driving.