In working on my book Untwisting Scriptures #4, which addresses sin-leveling (treating all sins as equal) among other things, I came across a parable I had written for this book years ago. Ultimately I’ve decided not to use it in the book, but I would love to have your thoughtful input about it here. What answers would you give?
Two men, Wavering and Confident, walked together up a road, the High Way to God, which was bounded on both sides by a fence. The fence was low and easy to step over, but the signs along the way very clearly proclaimed “No trespassing.” On the other side of the fences lay the life they had left, full of interesting-looking and sometimes beautiful fruit with the peculiar quality of making a person sick sooner or later. Farther out, they knew, were very dark places that couldn’t be seen from the road, full of fruit that was hideously ugly and extremely poisonous but somehow intensely attractive.
There was fruit on the High Way too, to be sure, rich and nourishing, delicious and deeply satisfying. The only problem, if you could call it a problem, was that it was invisible, and one had to trust the Lord of the High Way to make it available.
Wavering occasionally reached out or even stepped over the fence for a moment to eat a bite of the forbidden fruit along the edge of the path that looked so interesting and attractive.
Sometimes he felt an immediate agony in the pit of his stomach. But even when he didn’t, his conscience gripped him, he came to his senses, he cried out to God to forgive him and help him, and he stepped back.
Confident, who was still in the path, looked down on Wavering and scorned him.
But at night while Wavering slept, Confident strode far, far afield into the forbidden territory and ate all kinds of sickening fruit. Inside he was rotting, but outside he managed to maintain the same confident appearance.
Every morning when Wavering awoke, Confident was there, continuing to silently scorn him for the times in the past that he had reached out for the forbidden and sickening fruit.
The two pilgrims continued their journey and joined others along the way.
Confident began to preach sermons to the group who traveled together. He preached especially about the wickedness of even thinking about wanting to step over the fence for a bite of forbidden fruit. Wavering knew he had had thoughts about wanting to step over the fence, and had even done it sometimes. He felt wracked with guilt.
At night, while Wavering slept, Confident went farther and farther away into darker and darker places.
Confident preached about how because all those who were on the High Way to God were forbidden-fruit-eaters and all have stepped over the fence, it was hypocrisy to point the finger at someone else’s trespass when you know you’ve trespassed yourself. Wavering listened to this wise preaching and nodded. He knew he had sinned, that was for sure.
Then one night, in the middle of the night, Wavering woke up. Confident wasn’t in the group. There was only one place he could have gone, and Wavering waited for him to return.
In the dim light of the distant carnival, he saw him coming, from far, far away, across the forbidden territory. For the first time, Wavering’s heart became angry about something other than his own sinful soul.
“Where were you?” he asked.
“I was just out there,” Confident responded confidently.
“You went into the forbidden territory,” Wavering said.
“So? You have too!”
“But . . . but . . . I only stepped over for a moment for the fruit that was right at the edge . . . and you went way, way out there into the darkest places. And you’ve been here preaching to everybody about forbidden fruit!”
“So? What are you getting at?” In the early morning dawn, Wavering could see Confident’s eyes narrowing into thin slits.
Wavering sputtered and fell silent. He didn’t know how to put his thoughts into words.
It had been so engrained in him. Any stepping over the fence was a trespass. All of it is an affront to God. So what difference did it make if it was just one step or if one went into the very darkest places and ate the most vile fruit?
Wavering didn’t know what to say.
The next day, Confident preached on the Scripture, “Let him who is without sin cast the first stone.” As he preached with his deep and eloquent voice, his eyes bored into the eyes of Wavering.
Wavering knew he had eaten the forbidden fruit. But what Confident had eaten was worse, wasn’t it? Or was it? He didn’t want to cast any stones. Or did he? Maybe he did. He couldn’t figure it out.
As time passed, Confident elaborated on his doctrine, even preaching that those who stayed faithfully in the path but who looked with curiosity at the other side of the fence or even thought about taking forbidden fruit were sinning just as much as those who lived over there and ate the various kinds of forbidden fruit all the time. In fact, everybody, no matter what, was just as tainted with the poison of forbidden fruit as everybody else.
Wavering began to feel smaller and smaller and more and more confused. For fear of being a hypocrite, Wavering refrained from telling the others about Confident’s double life, Confident continued to preach, and Confident continued to spend his nights far afield in the darkest places eating the most vile fruit.
And as the situation worsened, the presence of the Lord of the High Way, as well as His rich and nourishing and truly delicious (though invisible) fruit, seemed to become harder and harder to find.
What is the solution? What would you say to Wavering? What would you say to Confident? Or the others with them?
Go here to download your free Guide, How to Enjoy the Bible Again (when you’re ready) After Spiritual Abuse (without feeling guilty or getting triggered out of your mind). You’ll receive access to both print and audio versions of the Guide (audio read by me). I’m praying it will be helpful.