It happened this way. Two
angels, Michael and Gabriel, were having coffee in the lounge and discussing
how to resolve a bet. Michael thinks that man is basically good—what does man
in is a combination of upbringing, environment and misunderstanding. Gabriel
thinks man is rotten to the core. The question is, how do we resolve the bet?
Michael: The first thing
have to do is eliminate childhood. That’s where most of man’s bad habits are
Gabriel: In other words, we
get The Boss to create a man who is already an adult?
Michael: Right. No parents,
no problems, Gabe.
Gabriel: OK—but an “adult”
means sex. What are we going to do about that?
Michael: Got that one
covered too. We get The Boss to create a woman, same way.
Gabriel: That’s not going to
work. Two creations—they’ll have each other to blame.
Michael: OK—we get The Boss
to make her from some part of him. That way, no finger pointing.
Gabriel: The first time that
woman puts on a miniskirt your theory is going to be shot to blazes, Mike.
Michael: Good point. We
can’t have a pair of prudes running around the place—sexual inhibitions cause a
lot of problems. Can we get them so they’re naked—but don’t know it?
Gabriel: You might as well;
but is The Boss going to go for this?
Michael: You know how He
likes to create things; he’ll love it.
Gabriel: OK, that will do
for heredity. What about environment?
Michael: We make a garden
for them—just for them. Fill it full of fruit trees and useful plants. They
get the best possible environment—one that supports them completely.
Gabriel : Better make them
the gardeners—we don’t want them being idle. Idle hands, the Devil’s workshop.
Michael: Oooh, forgot about
old Satan. What are we going to do with him?
Gabriel: Well, we have to
test these two somehow. It’s not like he wouldn’t be willing to provide the
Michael: Yeah, but we don’t
let him in any way he wants—we let him in the way we want.
Gabriel: Here’s what you can
do for the test. Put one tree in the middle of the garden, and tell not to eat
Michael: We have to give the
man a fair chance at this. We have to warn him about it—and really threaten
him if he does eat.
Gabriel: OK, we’ll give them
the death penalty if they eat.
Michael: The death penalty?
For one piece of fruit? Gabe, isn’t that a little extreme?
Gabriel: Look—what could be
more clear cut than this: Only one thing that you could possibly do wrong—that
eliminates any shades of gray ethical problems. They get a perfect childhood
and a perfect environment, and the death penalty if they screw up. What could
be more convincing a test?
Michael: I’m sold. But what
are we going to do about Satan? If he shows up in great power, it will confuse
them no end.
Gabriel: Piece of cake,
Mike—we only let him enter in the form of a snake. People just naturally
loathe snakes. That should set off the alarm bells for these two.
Michael: Done deal! Let’s
go see The Boss.
It turns out that God has
already conducted this little experiment. Only He would have the power to do
so. It is a demonstration so clear that only one conclusion is possible: Man,
by his very nature, is a sinner. Not one of us is perfectly righteous.
But the experiment in the
Garden of Eden tells us a few other things too.
We can see that God intended man
to be good—He created us that way.
But—by our own choices—we are
sinners. Because God is righteous, He can have no dealings with sinners.
explains a lot about human behavior. Why is it, we ask, that the people around
us can be kind, generous and loving at times—and the same people can watch
someone being beaten to death without bothering to call the police? The answer
is found in the fallen nature of man.
are not mixtures of good and evil; we are not like an alloy. When we are
righteous, our righteousness can be as pure as God’s. How do we know? Go back
to Genesis—and see that we are created in God’s image. We have the capability
of being like Him. But because of our sinful nature, we can’t keep it up all
the time. At times we rebel against what we know to be the truth.
human behavior is much simplified if you know that we are in rebellion against
God. He is merciful and compassionate (and if not we’d see a lot more
lightning strikes). But He has a rebellion on his hands.
think not? Let’s take this into down home cooking. When you are “plump” your
doctor will soon tell you that you need to go on a diet. Now, eating a
chocolate bar is a matter of will. You can say no. It’s an easy word to
pronounce. You know the right thing to do—but the chocolate bar keeps calling
your name, doesn’t it? Immediately after this indulgence, you promise yourself
that you will never do that again. It doesn’t take too long for “never” to
expire. The more often you indulge, the more you bulge—and regret it.
usual question at this point is, “What can we possibly do about it?” But that
question presupposes one condition: that there really is anything we can do
about it. Pitchmen for all kinds of diet pills get rich when we try to do
something about it. If you want the right answers you must first ask the right
questions. The right question? “What can God possibly do about it?”
first the question seems rather simple. God can do anything, therefore God can
fix this. Please remember: any idiot can place the words “God can” in front
of something stupid. Can God decree that yellow will be round on Tuesdays and
square the rest of the week? God, the Scripture tells us, is not the author of
confusion. So we recognize that God does not act like a circus magician. He
must be true to his character.
you present this to smart people, their reaction is pretty predictable. “I can
handle it myself.”
Some see God the cosmic bean
counter. If the good things I do add up to more points than the bad….. It
doesn’t make any difference—God is pure righteousness. You have to be perfect.
“Well, at least I’m better than
(insert name of local louse here).” God’s answer to that is, “So what. You’re
“I’ll just pretend I didn’t know
about this. God wouldn’t blame me for my ignorance, would he? Especially when
I’m so sincere?” Yeah, right.
are a few more choice methods for this—but they all end the same way. Not one
of us can handle this problem.
you see the problem that man’s rebellion poses for God:
His loving, merciful and
compassionate side wants to take us into his arms and tenderly bring us to
perfection. He knows we can’t do it ourselves.
But his righteous side says this
cannot be done: sinners must pay the penalty for their sins. And as we saw in
the Garden, the penalty of sin is death.
what does God do? Does he toast the planet and start all over with some other
species? Or does he announce blanket forgiveness—and watch as we take
advantage of His good-hearted nature? This is the divine dilemma—how to treat
sin as it deserves while loving the wayward sinners. That’s the problem. The
solution we shall see in Jesus, the Christ.