I will never forget Donna. I met her when answering an ad in the paper for a drafting table. It turned out that she was selling her furniture to buy food.
I put my arms around her and together with her went through incredible disasters, calamities, and finally some joy. Her trials would fill a book, yet she could always find something that made her smile.
One day I asked her, “Donna, suppose you died and stood before God and He asked you why He should let you into heaven, what would you say?”
Donna responded, “I’m not bad enough to go to hell.”
While wondering just how bad she thought a person had to be to go to hell, I took Donna on a little imaginary trip to the west coast. I asked her to pretend that she and all of the people she knew were lined up along the coastline. Their task was to swim to Hawaii. I asked her, “How far would you get?”
She thought, then said, “About 200 yards.”
I told her that she would do better than I would. I’d drown when the first wave hit. But some good swimmers might make it 20 or 30 miles.
Then I asked, “How many would make it all the way?”
She said, “None. It’s too far.”
When she said that, I read this verse to her, “For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
I explained to her that God’s standard is perfection. Some people may come closer than others, but no one makes it. It is just too “far.” We cannot do it because of sin.
In fact, “sin” is from a Greek word meaning “to fall short,” like an arrow aimed at a target. That is, when anyone draws back their bowstring and aims at being good enough for heaven, all arrows land on the ground, far short of the bull’s eye.
I told her that God will forgive our failure and accept us jest as we are, but we also need the gift of perfect righteousness — equipping us for heaven — much like a swimmer would need special strength to swim half was across the Pacific or an archer extra power to hit a distant target.
Donna thought that hitting God’s target involved measuring her life by the bad she didn’t have. She wasn’t a thief or a murderer or anything terribly gross, so she must be okay.
But again, His standard is not a negative one made up of what we don’t do. Instead, He has a far more positive goal. He wants us to be like His Son, perfect in every way!
Occasionally someone comes along calling himself a Messiah. Others even claim to be Christ or that all are born with the “Christ-spirit.”
In reading Scripture and looking at humanity, I’ve come to the conclusion that only the hopelessly uninformed or hopelessly deluded could make such claims. Being Christlike involves humbly receiving Christ. We can’t do it.
Donna was glad to hear that God loved her just as she was. She asked His forgiveness for her shortfall and received the life of Christ.
She found out that heaven is not an attainment but a gift — from One who does not lower His expectations because we can’t meet them, but in mercy gives us what we need — Himself!
Donna also found that new Christians are not always able to act and react in a Christlike way. Time and trials provide her opportunities to “aim and shoot” at God’s target.
But He also gave strong assurance that someday, when she sees Him face to face, she will hit the bull’s eye and be ready for eternity. (See 1 John 3)
Donna’s trials have been numerous, but I’m sure if she were here and could read this, she would chuckle and toss out the challenge, “Target practice, anyone?”