There is often in our society a chasm between what we profess to believe and what we know to be reality. For example, many, if not most, believe that we as humans are basically good. One person quipped once, "I am basically good, it is only my behavior that lets me down." Interesting.
Many times as I talk with people as a pastor and share with them the fact that they need a Savior, they sometimes become a little defensive. "What do I need to be saved from?" they may ask.
When I try to point out that God loves them but hates their sin, they respond saying that they are basically good, and some in fact will argue that the reason they rejected Christianity in the first place is because of the concept of personal sin and ultimate accountability.
To you who believe that men are basically good, take a minute and reach into your pocket. If you are like most people, you will find in that pocket a set of keys. My key ring is pretty full, I have plenty, if not too many, keys.
Now, let me ask you a question? Why do you have those keys? To open things? Certainly, that is the obvious answer. But if men are basically good, why do we have to lock things in the first place?
The reality of keys belies the professed belief that we are basically good.
Let's look at this another way. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that we are basically good; it is only aberrant behavior that occasionally lets us down.
Truth be told, that aberrant behavior not only occurs daily, but multiple times each day. It might be an impure thought, an unkind word, a curse on someone, or some hand gesture for that person who didn't wait their turn at the stop sign.
If a person only blows it three times a day, I think most of us would agree that such a person could be considered basically good.
But, that person who blows it only three times a day, at the end of a week has blown it 21 times (still not too bad considering), at the end of a 30-day month, 90 times and at the end of an average year, 1,056 times.
Multiply that over an average life-time and suddenly that insignificant three sins a day turns out to be a whole lot of sins. Frankly, to be perfectly honest with you, I blow it a whole lot more than just three times a day and I'm a pastor.
Now the Bible says, "for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God." (Romans 3:23, NIV). We are all in the same boat. We can curse that fact (only proving right there that we are indeed sinners), we can deny that fact (but only intellectually, as the keys in our pockets testify), or we can admit the fact and seek help.
The Bible says, "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord." (Romans 6:23, NIV). Now, a wage is something I earn or deserve, but a gift is something I receive at someone else's expense.
What I deserve from my sin, whether they are few or many, is the same -- death -- separation from God. But God offers a free gift -- eternal life -- to anyone who will accept the gift He offers. He can offer that gift because His Son, Jesus Christ, paid for its purchase.
Each of us has but two choices. One is we can accept the gift because we know we need a Savior or two is we can reject the gift, intent on relying on our own perceived goodness to get us to heaven (if indeed, a heaven exists).
You who may think you qualify because of the quality of your life, please keep in mind the quip above: You may be basically good, but if your behavior lets you down, you might consider rethinking your strategy for this life and the next.
Dr. John Pearrell is pastor of Gateway Community Church in Covington. For more information visit the Gateway website at www.gatewaycommunity.org.