Our pastor is preaching through the book of Ephesians right now. A couple of weeks ago, he talked about the difference between trespasses and sins. Trespassing is crossing a line…in the case of humanity, we’ve crossed a line that God drew, and it has separated us from Him.
I formed this picture in my mind, of God (as the hen gathering her chicks) with all of us huddled around Him, facing a line (some action or actions which would drive a wedge between us and make it impossible for us to go back). “Stay here,” He says. But our first ancestors, blinded by the lie–“You won’t really die…”–take the first fatal step in the wrong direction. And looking back they see a flaming sword barring their way.
Now, because we are all born on the wrong side of the tracks, as it were, we sin. “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” Pastor says that sin is our attempts to get back to God in our own strength, through our own merits. And as such, every attempt is doomed to fail. We take a running jump, try to hurl ourselves across that line, over that wall…and we fall short. Nothing we can do will breach the gap between us and a holy God.
That’s why Christ formed the bridge. (Do you remember that great Avalon song: “There’s a Cross to bridge the great divide…”?) Now we, through His sacrifice, can get back to where we belong, close to God, under His protection.
All this was quite clear to me from the explanation. And then I prayed the Lord’s Prayer one morning and thought about forgiving those who trespass against us…odd, isn’t it? Our trespasses have separated us from God by drawing us away from Him through our actions. But when others trespass against us it’s usually by getting inappropriately close, invading our space, and thus harming (or destroying) relationship: when we steal, murder, covet, commit adultery, we’ve crossed a line with one another, trespassed on each other’s private land. Loving my neighbor as I love myself means respecting his boundaries, not moving fence lines or marker stones.
It seems to me that the only way we can be both 1) close to other people and 2) in right relationship without trespass, is if we’re all on the same side of the boundary line…with God. This makes the first great commandment, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” the logical prerequisite for “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”…
Because until we’re in God’s territory, we can’t help but trespass on someone’s else’s land. But once we’re back where we belong, we’re all standing on holy ground. And it is possible to live in peace with one another.