The need for a solution that outdistances the problem.
Lesson 21 from The HOPE Study Guide
And it came about when they were in the field, that Cain rose up against Abel his brother and killed him.
– Genesis 4:8
Now the earth was corrupt in the sight of God, and the earth was filled with violence.
– Genesis 6:11
As the descendants of Adam and Eve increased, so also, sin increased.
– The HOPE, Chapter 4
OBSERVE & CONSIDER
The science fiction movie, Alien1 told the story of a group of space travelers who came upon a planet that was inhabited by a vicious alien life form. After a terrifying encounter with the “alien,” it seemed that the crew might escape calamity and resume their journey unscathed. On the surface things appeared somewhat normal, but in reality the alien life form had invaded the body of one of the crew. And as the crew was having a meal together, when it was least expected, the alien life form which had been incubating inside the infected crew member ripped open his chest from the inside and burst across the screen.
As horrific as this cinematic illustration may be, it is not nearly so terrible as the “alien” power called sin that has infected mankind. Adam and Eve left the garden to try once again to fulfill God’s original directive to them to “be fruitful and multiply” (Genesis 1:28). But they were infected with sin, and though things “appeared somewhat normal,” they weren’t. Not even one generation passed before the ugliness of sin burst onto the scene. Adam and Eve’s firstborn son, Cain, savagely murdered his younger brother, Abel.
As we consider the way sin so quickly spread in the world, let’s look at a simple illustration. Most people are familiar with dominos, little rectangular tiles with different numbers of dots on the face of each tile. And if you are familiar with dominos, then you have probably seen people line them up like little pillars all in a row. When the first domino is toppled, it sets off a chain reaction toppling the next domino, and so on and so on.
One of the largest displays of dominos ever to be toppled involved over 3.8 million dominos. It took 100 builders working 8 hours a day for 3 months to create the domino display. The display incorporated over 51 different interlinked projects; each one very complex and delicately balanced. Once the first domino was toppled, the chain reaction spread quickly in every conceivable direction. In a very brief matter of time, all that was left was a huge mess!
God created a world that is infinitely more complex, more interdependent, and more delicately balanced that that domino display. But like that display, even the smallest wrong move has the potential to send ripples of consequence throughout the creation for all time. It has been said that the smallest sin against an infinite God has infinite consequences.2
ASK & REFLECT
Though the two illustrations we’ve considered fall short of the reality of sin, they do help us understand how sin increases. Even though everything may appear to be normal on the surface, if left unchecked, the smallest sin can grow and spread at an alarming rate, bringing destruction to everything it touches. This we also see from the Bible verses we visited today, which, unlike the illustrations, do not fall short of reality.
Does what we’ve considered today affect your view of the seriousness of sin? If so, how?
Now imagine that you were in charge of toppling that domino display, and just at the very moment you tipped the first domino, the person in charge of the exhibit said, “Wait, not yet!”
What could you possibly do? If there was a solution, it would have to be something that could: 1) outdistance the problem, which was spreading at an alarming rate and 2) reverse the damage that had already been done. Such a solution might be humanly impossible.
The problem of sin in the world is even more complex and desperate than the dilemma described in this illustration. Yet we too need a solution to sin that can outdistance the problem and reverse its effects. Thankfully God has provided such a solution.
DECIDE & DO
If you have not fully considered your own tendency to sin and your inability to keep from sinning, consider it now. Sin is a “global” problem that is manifested personally. Once asked to comment on “what is wrong with the world,” British author G.K. Chesterton responded, “I am.”3
Read the Apostle Paul’s words in Romans 7:15-25 to see how he expressed the same idea, and read Romans 8 to explore this teaching even further. If you are ready to apply these truths to your life and you seek the solution for sin in your life, go to the Knowing God section of this study.
1Alien, Directed by Ridley Scott, Produced by 20th Century Fox and Brandywine Productions Ltd., 1979.
2Edward Payson, Our Sins, Infinite in Number and Enormity (Sermon No.7). (http://www.pbministries.org/articles/payson/the_works_vol_2/sermon_07.htm) Retrieved October 6, 2006. “…we must acknowledge that our wickedness is great, and our iniquities infinite, –absolutely numberless. It is further necessary to show, that our sins are infinite, not only in number, but in criminality; that every sin is, in fact, infinitely evil, and deserving of infinite punishment. It is so, because it is committed against an infinite being, against God, a being infinitely powerful, wise, holy, just and good.” Payson uses Job 22:5 as the basis for this sermon: “Is not your wickedness great, And your iniquities without end?”
3Scott Phillips, Front Page Reflection. (Reformed University Fellowship of Tennessee Tech University, 2006). (http://orgs.tntech.edu/ruf/). Retrieved December 19, 2006.
Scripture quotations taken from the NASB