I grew up hearing a lot about God and the Bible. I heard stories about Moses crossing the Red Sea, Jonah and the whale, and Jesus dying on the cross. I also heard certain “Bible truths” like God is good or love your neighbor. And then there was the bit about sin, that is, that we are all sinners. In fact, I heard that we are all sinners so many times I’d have to say it just became a plain, old vanilla fact with little to stir me up. In some ways that’s understandable. If you feel embarrassed because you lost your hair due to chemo, but then find that everyone around you is in the same boat, it doesn’t seem like all that big a deal even if it's evidence you’ve got a deadly cancer growing inside you.
Recently I led a discussion with a group of men. We were talking about the question, “Who’s in?” or in other words, if there is a God and a heaven who gets to go there? Most people feel pretty good about their own chances. And they think that they’re good to go because on the balance they’ve done more good than bad and have never done anything too heinous.
The opening pages of the Bible seem to suggest something different. They tell the story of Adam and Eve. God puts them in a perfect garden, and says, “Have fun, just do one thing for me: don’t eat from this one tree.” I don’t know how long Adam and Eve held out, but it doesn’t seem like that long until they just couldn’t stand it any longer--they had to taste the forbidden fruit. Now, think about it. Up until that fateful moment, Adam and Eve had a perfect record. They had been interacting with God and each other and the animals with a 1.000 batting average, and then they ate just one piece of fruit. That’s it. They didn’t murder someone. They didn’t get in some big marital spat. They ate a single piece of fruit. I don’t even think they finished it.
But guess what God’s response was to this infraction. Without hesitation he said, “You’re out! You are banished from the garden for the rest of your lives and cursed with hard work and strife until you die.” Seriously. That’s what the story says. One forbidden piece of fruit and Adam and Eve were no longer in with God.
So back to the group of men. After sharing this Adam and Eve story, I asked, “So given what this story is saying, what might that say about whether we are in with God given our own track record?” Without hesitation, one man blurted out, “We are all screwed!” I don’t think I could have said it better myself. It’s not just that we are all sinners. If the Bible is right when it comes to God’s stance on the sin in our lives, my friend hit the nail on the head—we are all screwed!
You might say, “But that’s rather depressing, John.” And you’re right, it is. If nothing else, it adds a little necessary spice to my plain vanilla, childhood concept of the universality of sin. If God’s reaction to even the smallest blemish in our lives is, “You’re out!” maybe we are in a lot bigger mess than we ever imagined. And maybe it makes sense of all the fuss about Jesus. But that’s a conversation for another day.
John likes to help people wrestle with the big questions of life in his work with Search Ministries. He served as a pastor in Houston for 16 years, earned his doctorate at Biola University, and is a contributing author of Reasons to Believe: Thoughtful Responses to Life’s Toughest Questions.