I was once convinced people were basically good and that any degree of human depravity was due solely to the effects of negative circumstances in the person’s past or present life. It worked in maintaining the positive self-image I needed to manage my life. And it paved the way for me to blame others for my shortcomings.
Then I grew up. I had children. As much as I loved (and love) them, I had to come to terms with an innate driving force – human selfishness. Beyond that, I experienced a plentiful share of disappointments, betrayals, losses, and an utter inability to hold it all together – to manage my life. My hard and prideful heart began to soften.
I “came to myself” as the prodigal son did in the pigpen (Luke 15:17). I stopped lying to myself, and I admitted I was to blame. Something was wrong with my heart.
That was the second-best thing that ever happened to me. The best thing happened in the same moment. My Redeemer came for me – He rescued me from myself, my pride, and my determination to control my life. I gave up. And then, I began to live.
Now, the study…
A survey of 2,000 adults conducted by Arizona Christian University’s Cultural Research Center in June (2020) revealed that nearly 7 in 10 American adults agree with my former assertion, that “people are basically good.” Without a doubt, this is the pervasive view among every subgroup.
Among the study’s most startling revelations are the number of churchgoers who believe in innate goodness: evangelicals (70%), mainline church members (75%), and Catholics (77%). Are you following this? Church-going people are actually more likely to disagree with the foundational biblical understanding of human sinfulness than those who do not attend church services.
Not only does this reveal a lack of biblical literacy and understanding, but it also identifies a vast lostness within the walls of America’s churches.
The good news is that 30 years ago, 14% more Americans overall believed people were basically good (83% in 1990 vs. 69% in 2020). Considerably fewer now believe in the innate goodness of man.
As the darkness has increased in recent years, people are coming to recognize the sinfulness of man. Within these numbers is a hidden hope. Possibility. Reachable souls.
Jesus came for this hidden hope.
He spoke of them (and us) when he said, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick, I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:31-32).
Clearly, as the Apostle Paul wrote, there is not one who is righteous (Romans 3:10) – only those who think they are! Those in that category cannot be saved. In their minds, there is nothing from which they need to be saved.
Each one of us must acknowledge the innate sickness at the core of his or her being to receive the undeserved gift of God’s grace – paid for in the death of the sinless Son. Jeremiah 17:9 describes it this way: “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is?” (NLT translation) Yet more than 7 out of 10 churchgoers have failed to grasp this intrinsic truth on which our faith is dependent.
“The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few.” These words were spoken by Jesus to His disciples 2000 years ago (Matthew 9:37). And they are still true.
In alerting His disciples to the need for reapers, Jesus didn’t leave them helpless and without instruction. He continued in v. 38: “therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.”
This instruction still demands our attention…and obedience.
We have more outside the church ready to hear and receive the gospel than we have reapers within the church! “The workers are few.” And the results of this survey help us understand why.
Vast numbers of people in the church are dead in their trespasses.
That is why it is said” “Wake up, sleeper, rise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you” (Ephesians 5:14).
Who, then, will go outside the walls to tell the others – those who have become aware of the indwelling sin of man – that there is an answer to this dilemma?