Walking The Roman Road – Lenten Season 2019
“There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands, no one who seeks God. All have turned away, they have together become worthless; there is no one who does good, not even one.”
“Their throats are open graves; their tongues practice deceit. The poison of vipers is on their lips. Their mouths are full of cursing and bitterness.”
“Their feet are swift to shed blood; ruin and misery mark their ways, and the way of peace they do not know. There is no fear of God before their eyes” (Romans 3:10-18 NIV).
“That was a good one,” John said. “Ask me another one.”
It was a game my sixteen year old daughter taught me. It was called something like “Would you rather…” Each kid would ask a “would you rather” question to the other. “Would you rather be a snake or a scorpion?” Those are the only two choices. You had to give an answer and usually a reason for your answer. The idea is to ask the most crazy questions you could thik of.
“Well, let me ask you something with a little bit more of a spiritual idea behind it.”
“Ok,” John said. “Fire away.”
“Would you rather be Dracula or a werewolf?”
“Are you kidding?” John exploded with laughter. “How in the world is that a religious question?”
“I said “spiritual” not “religious,”” I said. “Just answer the question.” I was smiling too. I wondered what he would say.
“Well…..” he dragged out his answer, thinking about it. “I guess I would have to choose being a vampire, like Dracula. He gets to live forever.”
“And why not the werewolf?” I asked.
“The werewolf is like an animal,” John said seriously. “He starts out as a human but then turns into an animal and destroys everyone in his way. Kinda creepy.”
“Actually, I agree,” I said with a smile. “But Dracula has problems too. He gets to live forever but he has to drink human blood to do it.”
“But those are the only two options you gave me,” John said. “What makes it a spiritual question, anyway?”
“Well, you know that both of these are really literary figures that represent certain extreme problems that humans have.”
“What do you mean?”
“Take the werewolf, for example. You are exactly right that he starts as a human and then is reduced to a ferocious animal and attacks anything that is in his way. He becomes an unthinking beast that is controlled entirely by his animal instincts.”
“Exactly. Humans are like that sometimes. When we get really angry or if we are fighting for survival, we can become very dangerous. We don’t literally turn into werewolves, of course, but we all act like a bunch of animals sometimes.”
“And people get hurt,” John agreed. “What about Dracula?”
“Well, Dracula is more interesting yet. He represents the human desire for immortality and he is willing to do anything to get it. He sucks the blood from his human victims to get what he wants much like we humans do to each other in order to get ahead in life. Some people don’t pay much attention to who gets hurt in their mad rush for success and power.”
“Yes. Both of these types of people are dangerous but they aren’t the most dangerous of all.”
“Ok, now this is getting interesting. Who is the most dangerous of all?” John was sitting on the edge of the sofa, engrossed in the conversation. It was an unusual way to introduce a vital spiritual truth but I thought he was ready for it.
“I will tell you in a minute,” I said. “But before I do, I want to ask you a different sort of question.”
“Do you think that humans can sell their soul to the Devil?”
“Hmmm, that’s an interesting question. Sort of depends on whether you believe in the Devil or not. But granting that, can someone do something so horrible that he is in danger of losing his soul?” John was rephrasing the question a bit but I let it go. John looked up at me. “I would have to say yes. You can sell your soul to the Devil if you do something so horrible you can’t live with yourself anymore.”
“You do realize that you changed the question a bit to make it more psychological rather than real,” I said smiling.
“I’m not sure I believe in the Devil yet,” John said sincerely.
“Ok, granted. But here is the point I wanted to make. Nobody can sell their soul to the Devil because the Devil already owns your soul.”
“Hmmm. Ok, you got me there. That took me by surprise. I suppose you’re saying this comes from the Bible and is God’s point of view?”
“Yes, I am.”
“Kinda harsh, don’t you think?”
“Well, it wasn’t God’s idea. It was ours.”
“Human beings? Well, what if I don’t agree with what Adam and Eve did in the garden?”
“You do the same thing they did every day?”
“No I don’t.” John paused. “Do I?”
“Well, do you do what pleases God every day or do you make your own decisions about your life as if God doesn’t exist?”
“Ok, I see your point. This is like living as a godless person, like what you were talking about in your blog, right?”
“Right. And being godless is exactly what Adam and Eve did as well. They made a decision to disobey God as if God didn’t exist or didn’t matter to them. And from that decision came all of the wickedness and evil in the world, including the evil and wickedness in our own hearts and lives, big or small, it comes from that same source.”
“I didn’t make the connection.” John was pensive for a moment. “So, it’s like we already are vampires and werewolves, hungry for power or filled with uncontrollable desires not concerned about who we hurt or how we get what we want?”
That was a surprise. He had made the leap himself, coming to the right conclusion on his own. I prayed a quick prayer of thanks and pressed forward.
“Exactly, now you’re getting it. It may sound a bit extreme, although some people do fit that profile. But we are all like that to one extent or another. The question is why?”
“I suppose because we are godless and therefore no longer really human,” John said. He was sitting there with his head hung down, thinking.
“Right again,” I said. “If the picture that the Bible paints is accurate and God’s point of view is true, then who do you think is the most dangerous kind of literary figure that there is?”
John thought for a while, then shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t know,” he said. “I would only be guessing.”
“The walking dead,” I hinted.
“Zombies,” I repeated, nodding my head. “They are another literary figure that takes a human being and burns out their soul and leaves a dead body still animated, animal like, unthinking, going about their business as if everything is fine until they get the scent of fresh blood and then they go in for the kill.”
“Gross,” John said. “I never liked the zombie movies much.”
“Me neither, but the idea serves a purpose to illustrate how God sees us but not how we see ourselves.”
“What do you mean?”
“We think we are relatively normal. We are human. We care for one another and love one another, at least a normal amount, usually. But our standard of what is normal has fallen to an all time low and God would not agree. His standard is still what he intended from the beginning and from that point of view we are the living dead, whose souls have already been sold to the Devil with our godlessness.”
“And you think that is the most dangerous?”
“Dangerous to yourself,” I said. “So long as you don’t believe that there is anything really wrong with you, you can’t get help. In fact, I call it a Sin Addiction.”
John perked up a bit at that.
“A sin addiction,” he said. “So you’re saying that we are all kinda addicted to our godlessness even though we don’t much like the wickedness and evil that comes with it?”
“Now you’re getting it,” I said. “Look, we read those verses that say that everybody sins. Everybody is godless, even religious people, all over the world.”
“We also read the verses that say that the reason we all die is because we are all godless and full of sin, which means that we rebel against God’s authority in our lives.”
“Ok, we all are godless and therefore we all die, is that what you’re saying?”
“Exactly. Not everybody would connect those two things but that is God’s message to the world in the Bible. He’s trying to tell us that death is not natural and that we should be living forever. That’s what we want, isn’t it? But we won’t get it through wickedness and evil. Only by returning to God.”
“So, it’s like living in a city where everybody is an alcoholic and nobody thinks it’s strange and then some guy comes along with a cure but nobody wants it because they don’t think they’re sick and need it?”
“Now you’re cooking with fire,” I said, laughing out loud. “That is the scary thing about being godless. We really like being godless. We really want to be in charge of our own lives and ignore God and his moral demands on our lives. We would rather be in charge ourselves even if that means that the world is going to hell in a handbasket and we all die in the process.”
“If you believe it,” I said. “You have to believe that we were meant for better things, that we were never meant to die, that being truly human is only possible in a relationship with God.”
“And if you don’t believe it, you live like a zombie, or a vampire….”
“….or a werewolf.”
“and then you die,” John finished. “And the worst of it is that you think it is perfectly normal when it really is an addiction with a cure.”
“Right on,” I said. “But there’s still one problem.”
John just sat there looking at me.
“Yes, reality,” I said. “If God actually exists and the Bible is true, then we still have one more problem that is going to be really dangerous.”
“Judgment and hell,” John said.
“Judgment and hell,” I repeated. “The most dangerous thing you can do is ignore the God who is there. We all live forever. That’s the nature of the human soul that God created. The problem is not only death but what happens after death.”
“Nobody can deny that we are all basically godless and nobody can deny that we all die at some point but you are saying that the two things are connected and that if we don’t figure it out on this side of the grave, we are in danger of spending eternity with the Devil in hell?”
“That’s one way to put it,” I said. “And to make matters worse, we are addicted to our godlessness and we prefer it, even if it means that we have to die. In the meantime, we just ignore the idea of hell and just choose not to believe in it.”
“Until we die and find out that God exists, that we will be judged and that we will get exactly what we deserve,” John said, finishing the idea.
“Unless we choose to believe in God, accept his point of view and take advantage of his solution to the problem.”
Silence settled on both of us for a long moment.
“Yeah, I still don’t get how Jesus solves the problem yet,” John said looking up at me.
“Don’t worry,” I said. “That’s what’s coming next and it’s really good news.”
The Desert Warrior
P.S. Let’s talk to God….
Lord, I can’t wait to get to the good news. The bad news is so depressing although I know it’s true. In my heart, I know that sin is real and that I tend to want to run things my own way even if it hurts others or myself. I just don’t seem to trust you much or I would do things your way. Help me to look at myself from your point of view and learn what it means to be truly human. In your name I pray. Amen.