15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift by the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. 16 And the free gift is not like the result of that one man's sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brought justification. 17 For if, because of one man's trespass, death reigned through that one man, much more will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man Jesus Christ.
(Romans 5:14-17 (ESV)
Paul spends a lot of time contrasting the trespass of Adam with the gift of Christ. It’s a free gift Paul says. This means it isn’t that phone contract you signed at the kiosk in the mall, where you fill out all the paperwork and walk away with a free phone, and the burdensome bill every month for the next three years. It’s truly free. Always free, and it isn’t taken away from you for failing to live up to some standard.
Yesterday I read an article in The Guardian in which the author claims the ones who challenged his faith in the “no god” most were the homeless drug addicts and prostitutes living in abandoned buildings. Atheism he said was a luxury only the rich could afford. One prostitute, abused since childhood and carrying more demons of the soul than I find imaginable said it she knew God was with her every time she got into the car. I was reminded that Christ said it would be such as these that entered the kingdom first. Some of us have the reality of our sin softened in this world. Sometimes I watch these shows and documentaries that highlight how just about every decision I make in my world, results in the exploitation of some child sweatshop worker in Thailand or wherever. I actually believe it is true. Divorced from my reality by countless hands buying and working the material until it sits on my shoulders in a five dollar T-shirt I think I got a great deal, and I could have bought the same shirt for fifty dollars but that child would still have been paid 5 cents for the day and sent home with an empty stomach. We live in a world, that isn’t any less connected today than it ever was, but the connections are more apparent. Our sins are all so interconnected with each other, one decision after another snowballing out of control to the point where the case could probably be made I’m somehow responsible for the plight of that prostitute. It’s the way sin is, it infects us all, and connects us all together in one massive relationship of codependency. This was the gift of Adam, the trespass that binds us together in sin and death.
But Christ gives us the free gift of justification and salvation, lifting us out of the pits of despair. He knows there is only one way this is going to work for sinners like you and me, and that is that the gift is free. Free, not dependent on any behavior of ours before or after we believe, not dependent on any commitment we make to live in such and such a way, but free that all our sin throughout all of our lives may be washed away. That at the end of our poorest decisions he is still there with forgiveness and grace.