One Sunday afternoon, an elderly preacher — a balding man with close-set eyes, a beak of a nose, and a mouth that turned down at the corners — visited our youth class. He stood behind the rickety wooden lectern, glared at us, and asked, “Do any of you know how much God hates sin?”
He looked at us. We looked at him. Time passed.
Finally, someone said, “A lot.”
The elderly preacher sneered. “How much is a lot?”
No one answered.
The elderly preacher sighed. “I’ll tell you how much God hates sin. Imagine you live a perfect life. You never lie. You never steal. You never cuss. You never lust. You’re fifteen, twenty, twenty-five, thirty years old, and you’ve never sinned once. Would God be proud of that?”
All of us: “Yes.”
“And then, one day, you step off the curb and into the street, and directly into the path of an oncoming bus. You look up. You see that bus coming. And in that moment, just before it hits you …" He lowered his voice to a whisper. "You say the S-word."
The pious kids blushed. The bolder ones giggled.
The elderly preacher waited for silence, then raised his arms to heaven, like a giant crow about to take flight. “You would lift up your eyes in hell.”
None of us spoke. None of us breathed.
For the first time, the elderly preacher smiled. "That's how much God hates sin."