Reading through the introductory verses of Ephesians 2 today and Paul is discussing our former state of being in sin and trespasses. I've always heard it's good to know where you've been so that you'll know where you're going. This is probably why Paul brings this to light to the church at Ephesus. In Genesis, Abraham built altars as monuments that marked the landscape of where God did specific great things, but he didn't stop and live there, he went forward to where God was leading him. In my study on the opening verses the following questions kept coming to my mind - what is it to sin, to trespass? We are so familiar with these terms that they are generic to us - probably because they are the best terms we have to describe walking out from under God's desired will and plan for our lives in not quite so many words. What does it mean to sin, to trespass? "...forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us" Ever find those words awkward?
I grew up in rural southern Illinois and we owned wooded land when I was young. I recall signs all over those river bottoms "NO TRESPASSING" and these for me have always tainted my definition of the word. I conjure visions of grey cloudy days in heavily forested muddy lands near the Wabash river basin where land owners were seeking to prevent poachers and high schoolers from encroaching upon the borders of their timberland for purposes that inevitably resulted in property damage. Every time I hear the Lord's prayer in a translation that uses the word "trespass" I think of those river bottoms, as if God a was property owner trying to keep trouble makers out. Not a very accurate picture.
Doing a word study I found a couple of interesting things in the greek translations of the words for trespass and sin. To trespass carries with it the notion of falling. But not just falling down, as in "I fell into sin" but to fall ineffectively by the wayside, to be incapacitated. The image of a line of soldiers charging in a battle came into mind. In battle, men fall. In life, people fall. In this Christian walk, Christian people fall. The psalmist in Psalms 91:7 reflects God's promise of protection while "a thousand will fall at your side, ten thousand at your right hand". The enemy has every one of us targeted, has each of us scoped. How does that make you feel?
God says that he has the very hairs of your head numbered. Satan also knows you, and as long as you lie motionless and float downstream with the rest of the world towards hell, you draw little attention from him. The moment you begin to stir and stand as a child of the King, you are zeroed in on, targeted and aquired. Start taking back the world from him as Jesus commands ("go unto the world") and you are guaranteed to have him array forces to move against you. I have personally felt this in recent months. As my walk with the Lord intensifies, as my passion for truly and deeply knowing him grows and things that have held sway in my life for decades begin to lose their grip I find new attacks, new frustrations, new "opportunities" to walk out God's grace, love, and patience towards others.
Sin: missing the mark. That definition just came to me recently. I always knew that it was to fail, to rebel, to go the opposite way that God wants us to go, but recently I learned that it is also aiming and just plain missing. Aiming a bow and arrow and missing the bullseye. It doesn't matter how much you miss, unless you hit the bullseye, you still missed it. That by itself was enlightening. "All have sinned and fall short". No matter how perfect you try to be on this earth, you will miss the mark at some point. This innaccuracy was brought into our bloodstream in Eden and has been present since. It necessitated the cross. Every single one of us will miss the target and I tend to miss it daily. But doing my study into the greek yesterday another aspect of this word jumped out at me. The word translated "sins" in Ephesians 2:1 is the greek word "hamartia" which means "to be without a share in". This is the greatest tragedy of sin and the ultimate wage of sin as outlined in Romans. Sin robs us of our share in all that God has provided for us, sent his Son here as exchange for our redemption for. Sin steals, kills, and destroys in our lives - daily. It takes from our relationships and robs us of intimacy with our Father. To be in sin is to be without a share in life, abundance, provision, health, and every good thing that God has promised. When we tolerate even the "smallest" of sins in our lives we tolerate loss, we are tolerating a "missing out". Why? Why is sin worth this? And what of a world drowning in sin and dying?
How tragic and and ultimately saddening it is that Satan has convinced an entire race that the baubles he has to offer, the pleasures of carnal flesh, the sin-life and self-indulgence of rebellion that lasts a mere 80 years at best and is plagued by pain and misery is so much more preferrable to the actual, true, meaningful life that God has for us that is for all eternity - forever. Yet look around. Every day you are surrounded by them. Lost and perishing. Bound, gagged, and being led off to slaughter. Unaware of their approaching eternal seperation from a Most Holy and Mighty God who is surrounded by beings we have yet to imagine who continually sing his praises. This plane is as close as they'll come to Him and I am as close as they are to knowing Him. Unless they come to a saving knowledge of him, this life with all of its problems, struggles, pain, and difficulties is the only "heaven" they will ever know. They have smiles on their faces, they greet me with "good morning" and "its-a-beautiful-day" but they are being led to death and torment that we have never conceived of in our worst of nightmares, one that they will never wake from or escape, one that they will share with Lucifer and and all of his fallen hosts for all of eternity. Can I look at myself in the mirror and honestly stare into the depths of those eyes and tell myself "I did my best - I did everything I could to get the Word, the life-line of the Word to catch hold in their heart so the Holy Spirit could work in their life"? Will I be able to look my Savior in the face and say such?
I think Psalms 91 speaks of protection from those who would do me harm, both spirit and men, but I also think it speaks of the world through which we walk daily. A thousand at your side...ten thousand at your right hand...stumbling and falling.