James Ray Johnson – 650 words

I was a youth pastor in Texas, working with a budget that was slightly less than what a Texan spends on snow shovels.  What I lacked in funds I tried to make up in fun.  So, this night we were playing “bite the onion.”  

I sat the kids in a circle and placed the biggest, strongest, hottest onion I could buy, in the hands of a boy.  The rules: pass it around the circle until the music stops.  If the onion stops with you, then you must truthfully answer a question from the one who just passed it to you.  You can refuse to answer, but if you do, you must take a bite out of the onion. 

Eye of the Tiger began to pulsate (It was the eighties – OK) and the onion zipped around the circle like a hot potato.  (Oops I mixed my metaphors or my vegetables or something.)   Then I stopped the cassette. (Like I said, it was the 80’s) Sadie got stuck with the onion (the names have been changed to protect the embarrassed).  She was asked, “Do you still sleep with your stuffed Orca?”  “Yes, I do” she defiantly declared.

More music – then it stopped with Blaine.  “Blaine, did you take a shower yesterday?”  Without hesitating he took the first chunk out of the onion, and then ran for some water to wash away the burn (and maybe his body odor).  

The evening got increasingly less truthful and the onion, much smaller.  It stopped with Angie this time.  “Do you have a crush on Billy Bob?”  (which isn’t a fair question because a quarter of the males in Texas go by Billy Bob.)  But, everyone knew this one.  He was sitting in the circle. 

Angie turned every shade of red.  She refused to answer BUT she also utterly abhorred onions.  She was stuck – the game stopped – and the mob grew restless.   They chanted their demand, “Bite the onion – bite the onion.”  

Suddenly, Cathy ran to her, seized the onion and took a big crunchy bite.  The mob was stunned to silence.   What just happened?  Evidently, she cared enough for Angie to bite the onion for her.

The group decided that the rules had been met, the onion had been bitten and Angie was free of her obligation. 

The story was a gift.  I later used it to explain to the teens what Jesus has done for us.  In the end, each of us will be left holding the onion because each of us has violated God’s instructions. His ultimate rule is, “the one who sins must die.”  I sensed Angie’s angst – holding the onion and knowing that it has earned a penalty that would be a terror to pay.

But Jesus came forth and grabbed our onion of death and buried His teeth in it for us.  “For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.) But God demonstrates his own love for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”  (Romans 6:6-8) -NET Bible®

I reminded the kids that some of us try to vainly earn the approval of God.  Angie simply released the onion and let Cathy take and eat it.  Not much more is required when it comes to Jesus.  Acts 10:31 says, “Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved, you and your household.”  -NET Bible®

The story of the onion helped them to see their need for Jesus.  Some chose to believe in Him and receive the gift of forgiveness He offered.

If you are still holding on to your onion, maybe it’s time to release it and let Jesus handle it.  He is anxious to take care of it for you. 


If you have 4 more minutes, pull up this video of Mark Mitchum (a deaf man) who signs the song, “What Sin?”  The message of the song and his fluid expressive movements still cause me to tear up.  (even without an onion) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AynCUpZya2s