Romans 5:20-21 – The law was added so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (NIV)
Some years ago, the congregation I was serving gave my wife and me a trip to Israel, returning through Greece and Rome. One of the highlights of that trip was a visit to Athens, where I stood on the Areopagus, the podium from which Saint Paul spoke about the "unknown god". We were able to see in the nearby Agora an altar marked to a god, whose name was not given. I wondered if this could have been the one of which Saint Paul spoke. The following day we went to Corinth and, again, I stood on the "bema", the podium where he defended himself before the people of that city.
As we drove back to our hotel, I mused on the two cities: Athens, known as the intellectual centre of the ancient world, the place where democracy first took root, and Corinth, the seaport city, home of sailors, thieves, prostitutes, and greedy merchants. The question came to mind, "Why did Athens, so culturally superior, turn away in indifference from Paul, while Corinth, the city that some writers of that day called "the armpit of the world", accepted the gospel and became one of the earliest and most thriving of all the early churches?
The only answer that came to mind was that perhaps the people of Athens were too proud of their intellectual achievements, while the people of Corinth knew their failings and were ready to accept a message which promised freedom from sin, and hope for a new, and uncorrupted life. Perhaps the Corinthians were happy to exchange their frantic search for fleshly love for the purer love of Jesus Christ.
Maybe the same feelings have moved many of us. Only when we have humbly admitted our failure to do good and our own corruption, can we know the power of God's grace!
Prayer: Thank you, Lord, for showing us the depth of our sin, that you might also show us the vastness of your grace. Amen.