Sorry Caputo fans, no references/quotes here.
This past Sunday we spend some time in Romans 5, where some important verses about sin/death entering the world through one man, and Grace entering “all the more” (v.20) The illustration of card games containing “Trump” cards, like Euchre or Rook was made. I’m unfamiliar with Rook (gasp, I know…a horrible Midwest Free Methodist), so I’ll stick to what I know of God’s favorite card game – Euchre.
(If you know how to play Euchre, you may skip this paragraph.)
In Euchre, each of 4 players has 5 cards in hand (numbers 9 through Ace). Using one card each, they basically play 5 miniature rounds of “WAR” (each called a “trick”), wherein the best card wins all the others. Card values are generally obvious, except an ace is the highest card of any given suit, as opposed to being a “1”. But with each set of 5 “tricks”, one of the 4 suits is considered “trump”. The trump-suited cards are the highest value, and the highest “trump” card is for some reason the Jack of that suit, other values remaining obvious. For complete rules, check out a site like this.
The illustration was made that God’s grace in many ways “trumps” what has entered the world due to sin. As seen in chapter 5, verse 20, “..where sin increased (from the Greek “pleonazo“), grace abounded all the more (from the Greek “hyperperisseuo“). Basically as if sin had played the highest card in the required suit, but Jesus comes in whopping down his Jack of Trump (right bower/bauer), sending satan back to his chair shaking his fist at the trump-rich Son of God.
As a Christian, and as a Euchre player, I enjoy this analogy. But I wanted to take it even further. It may be possible that only actual Euchre fans may enjoy following me down this rabbit hole…sorry.
You know the feeling well. It’s in the middle of the game, and you’re pretty sure you can defeat your opponents. A card is played, and you’re 3rd in the order. You look at your hands, and realize you’re holding the Ace in the suit being played. You hide your excitement well. Proudly, when it’s your turn, you lay your Ace down, possibly even keeping your hand near to collect all the cards once the 4th person has given theirs.
But what is this? The 4th player lays down a 9. A pitiful, powerless, 9. Not worth much of anything in normal card play, and certainly nothing in compared to an almighty Ace. But in this particular round, the suit of their nine happens to be Trump. As the card rests lightly on the 3 below it, your Ace is effectively crushed, and all power and authority you had previously given it become instantly sucked out, removed, and cast away. Your Ace is nothing, and is collected to never be seen again. By who? By this pitiful, powerless, 9.
It’s not about grace being “more powerful” than sin. It’s about the grace of God being completely and wholly “other” than the substance and products of sin. There is no battle between the powers of sin and the authority of God’s grace. Sin and it’s impact may increase in it’s amount, but the Grace of God literally “has no bounds”, is “overflowing measure”. Death may have “exercised dominion” (v. 14) at one point, but no longer. Verse 17 reminds us that “those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through one man, Jesus Christ.”
May we live as people who are freed, not to slam down our giant powerful trump card, depending on the size, strength, or sincerity of our faith. But may we live as people who are freed to depend on the complete “other-ness” of God, and the promise that His grace does more than save us from Hell, but offers us a completely new way of existing. We are made alive like never before, and walk away from chains that could never hold us if they tried…toward Christ and His Kingdom today, and into tomorrow.