But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many (Romans 5:15).

I am constantly amazed at what one person can do, for good or ill. Like the one degree of difference that stands between an orange crop being saved or ruined, a single individual can create havoc or influence many to change their world for the better.

The failed Christmas Day airline bomber is an example of the former. He threatened the lives of the passengers and crew on that plane, and subsequently set in motion a review of our airline security that exposed failures of intelligence we can hope will now be dealt with. We could also think of any number of terrorist masterminds and despicable dictators through history. Or the drunk who decides to get behind the wheel of a car. Then, on a much smaller scale and of much less significance, there’s the incompetent postal clerk in another city who misrouted an important piece of our mail and caused my wife and me a great deal of inconvenience.

For the latter, I was thrilled to hear the story of a third grade teacher who 20 years ago challenged his students to meet again with him and each other after those two decades. Many of them, now young adults and parents, did just that, so inspired were they by their teacher. Or how about the Nigerian banker, the father of the Northwest Airlines terrorist, who sought to alert authorities about his son’s beliefs and the threat he posed? And, of course, there’s Capt. Sullenberger, brought to our attention again as the Grand Marshal of the Rose Parade.

Any of us could think of one person who made a huge difference in our lives, whether helping and encouraging us or hindering and hurting us along the way. The former are our heroes, the latter our personal terrorists.

Paul has in mind One who made the difference for all humankind. Through him, the One, Jesus, the grace of God abounds in a world where graciousness is increasingly scarce. Through this One, peace of mind and heart comes, as we hear him say “Do not be afraid,” in a time when fear rules. Through him, the One, sin is conquered and death’s dominion done away, in our era when “the wrong seems oft so strong” and Death glares at us from the TV and Internet reports.

When things threaten to fall apart, they are held together by the One.

© 2010 Tom Cheatham