Humans be hung up on each other’s conduct. Hop on the Web, drop by the watercooler: here’s a herd of humans, spouting sharp views on who’s acting right and who’s losing. But what’s our standard of “right?” And who ultimately decides who’s “in” and who’s “out?” Human opinion is fickle and restless; it will change next month, but we still like to play along. And as standards continue to shift and bend, it’s also habit to bemoan “what the world is coming to.” But that’s a pointless exercise; even the Bible says it’s foolish to yearn for the good ol’ days. They don’t exist. Humans were never better or worse than they are right now.
Still, a new hostility seems to hang in the air, or maybe it’s only freshly aggressive thanks to 24/7 news and the never-exhausted world wide web. These are volatile times, and we’re desperate to command each other to Behave! by demanding new rules and enforcing modern values. We do, of course, have a responsibility to set laws and maintain order. But if, by controlling choices and forcing citizens to fall in line with our version of “good,” we think we can finally fix what’s wrong with humanity—and I’ve never met a soul who doesn’t think something is wrong with humanity—well, ask history’s pile of tyrants and utopians how that worked out for them. (Hint: it didn’t work out for them.)
At this point in man’s tenure on the earth, we could get wise and concede that our trouble can’t be fixed from the outside in. We can enforce a tiptoe civility with tools like mutual assured destruction, but we know deep down it’s not true freedom and peace. The fact that this late in the game, we’re still up all night fighting terror, bullies, tyrants, and abuse, both worldwide and household, it might be time to throw the hands up: something seems broken before we start, fated to fall apart. Forget fad philosophies; what’s the ancient root to all this unrest? Could a “theory of everything” explain the perpetual mess we make down here?
It’s no surprise I believe the Bible’s account, and here’s why I think it is telling the truth. It has simplified the human condition in a way that unearths the root of the problem. I said simple, not simplistic: an 8-year-old can grasp the basics, and an 80-year-old can still mine its depths. I didn’t get much from 10th grade Science, but I loved Occam’s Razor (the name as much as the principle): Among competing theories (and I’m paraphrasing), the simplest is probably correct. I believe the Word of God offers the simplest and most sweeping answer to what ails us.
The problem, according to the Bible, is not “out there.” It’s “in here.” Something is rotten in the heart of man. Centuries of humans have put their hand to defining what is “good” or “bad,” but God cuts to the chase: “No one is good.” Everyone has gone astray and missed the mark—from your Communist dictator to your common laborer. Although each age, and each individual, searches for rightness on his own terms, God says that in His eyes, “There is no one righteous. Not even one.” No one’s “in;” everyone’s “out.” All have sinned, and thus all are separated from God. This separation is where our trouble begins.
I like to think in metaphors, and I see this scenario as a massive cliff. On top is God and the Garden, the perfect beginning where he created Man in His image (male and female). Man and Maker were tight. The Garden was gorgeous. Grand exploits awaited Man’s dominion in the earth. (We laud our progress, but how advanced might we be without the incessant, dragging cost of selfishness, repression, and war? Just a thought.)
The setup was flawless. But this was no one-way relationship; it required a response. Man was given a tree and a choice. His alliance with his Creator had to be freely chosen, not programmed and overridden. Man understood the test, considered, and chose to flout the one command. In the moment that they sinned, they were separated from their union with God. They had been warned. It’s not what He wanted. And the fallout was not a petty fit of retribution—“Mess up once and you’re OUT.” Sin can’t stay in the presence of God. Strike a match in the gas tank and you get an explosion. The gas tank isn’t fickle; it does not narrow its eyes, consider and decide, “This time, I think I’ll go with BOOM.” It’s the nature of gas and fire—one thing happens when they meet. Sin is a flaring match in the face of God’s perfection. It is a propellant that cannot be put back in the bottle. God expelled Man from the Garden, but the explosion had already cut the lines. The signal was dead; Man was spiritually disconnected. The blast had blown them backward, tumbling off the cliff and descending into a free-fall.
Since that day, Man has been falling. Human history is the ongoing saga of this fall, the ever-fresh and never-quelled rebellion against God’s ways. Pick any era, human error is easy to see; this isn’t Where’s Waldo—you won’t spend hours searching for a striped shirt. It’s so much with us that we spend a good chunk of time, money, and sweat merely to prevent or punish wrongs. (Maybe you’re not ready to call it “sin,” but you can agree that wrongdoing is inefficient, at least, and counterproductive.) Human progress is astounding, yes, a holdover of the mold in which we were made, the creative spark still flickering within. But human greed and destruction keep pace quite nicely with all the helpful things we invent. How are we still here, one has to wonder, with our strident selfishness in handling the earth and each other? How do we endure year after year, almost nuking each other but not yet?
This sin-drenched race persists only by God’s grace. He lets it stagger forward because He wants Man back.
It’s as though God hit slow-mo on humanity’s fall. We’re off the cliff, but we have some time before we hit the bottom. Life on earth is a glorious grace period. We eat, we marry, we work; we also lie, pop pills, and punch people. We can try to clean up our conduct, try to be “good enough” to be accepted, but we can never reverse gravity and restore our relationship with God. “Being good enough” is not what the grace period is for.
Man exploded off the cliff a long time ago, and everyone after has been born in mid-air. No one has even a shot at god-like perfection; we enter existence separated from God. And we’re all heading to the same end, falling at the same rate. You, me, and that terrorist over there. The Amplified Bible states it simply: “All have sinned and continually fall short of the glory of God.” The bottom hurtles toward us, closer every year. We all return to dust; that’s no surprise. But physical death is not the end. We could hit the dirt and keep falling, forever separated from God. That’s the one-way ticket spiritual death has bought for us. We lit the match in the gas tank, and we could never go back, not by ourselves. But God, in His great love for humanity, made a way to bring us back.
Instead of ditching His defiant creation, God left His beautiful throne, put on a body of flesh like the men he made, and jumped off the cliff with us. Wrapped in full humanity, he fell with us through minutes and work and weddings and sorrows. Falling, yet not fallen. Jesus lived a sinless life—never before done, and never to be seen again. He then surrendered that perfect life as a sacrifice, a payment sufficient for the sins of the entire human race.
Before you were born, Jesus was jumping for you. Somehow, mind-bendingly, when Jesus jumped the cliff in the middle of history, he made it to the bottom before anyone else in history. The Bible says the Lamb was slain “from the creation of the world.” He hit the bottom before all of us, and for all of us. His blood is poured out there, covering the doorpost of Death and eternal loss. Without blood, as the Old Testament demonstrated, there is no payment for sin; with Christ’s divine and sinless blood freely spilled, all sin is paid for.
There’s more: He didn’t stay splattered. After three days, He rose in power. We still hit the dust, but because of Christ’s blood and victory over death, we don’t have to stay separated from God forever. Jesus ascended back to the Father, and he is taking as many with Him as will go. We can flap our arms, build a fancy flying machine, but no one can reverse the gravity of the fall. He’s the only one going back up. We will never be restored by what we do, only by what He has done for us. By faith, we receive His payment of blood. By faith we are saved.
Some say, “I don’t accept the premise that I am a sinner. I know I’m not perfect, but I live a good life. There’s real evil slaughtering people out there, so maybe get off my back.” I hear you—I get into the rhythm and noise of life and catch myself thinking, Shoot, is that really how it is? If we’re just looking at each other all day, it’s all relative, and comparatively, you probably are a good person. But if the Word of God is true, we’re the falling comparing ourselves with the falling. You and I are still off the cliff, and it’s going one way. That’s the simplicity of the human condition. Everyone’s a sinner. You and I have fallen short of God’s glory. It’s not even hard to do.
“Sin” is not a popular word. It’s definitely not PC. But it’s the easiest thing to understand. If sin is “anything short of God’s excellence,” then oh hello, sin, I didn’t see you there because you are the fabric of life. It’s also the hardest thing to fix. In our human effort, we either embrace legalism and pressure people into cleaning up their behavior (which does not fix the heart), or we throw off all restraint in our “right” to pursue every craving, every time, which pays us back with disease and disorder. We cannot solve this.
Others may admit something’s missing, but say, “I can find spirituality on my own. I don’t accept that Jesus is the only way. There are many paths to living a good life.” That’s true—if you want to live a relatively good life, you’ll probably do fine. But who has the last word on your life? If you really believe you live for yourself and dissolve into the ether when you die, do what seems best to you. But if it’s true that we have a Maker who owns and evaluates our lives, it’d be best to find out His terms. God has had compassion on us and given us a way to be restored to Him and empowered to walk in His ways. Whoever rejects His offer of grace will be allowed to finally and forever have their own way. We are free to dismiss the warning, but it would behoove us to make sure He’s not the boss.
The human condition is the bad news, the broken root of all our bad behavior. We can’t clean it or control it into rightness. The good news is that there’s good news! We weren’t entitled to a Savior, but we have one. While we were flipping Him off and doing our thang, He made a way for us to be reconciled to Him. And at a painful cost—the type of resolution that only someone resolute in his love would suffer. It’s not obscure, and it’s offered to everyone. It’s not hard to understand, it’s just humbling. We’re all sinners, we’re all off the cliff, and we’re all falling in sin toward eternal loss. At the end of the Day, we will be found in one of two places: forever severed, or recovered by the Blood.
References: Romans 3:21-26; John 3:16; John 1:12; 1 Corinthians 15:1-5; Hebrews 9:22; Genesis 3; Ephesians 2:8-9
 Romans 3:12
 Romans 3:10
 Romans 3:23
 Revelation 13:8