Studying for the right test
A few days ago I mentioned an ongoing discussion I was having on a mailing list with regards to public versus Christian schooling.
As so often happens, that conversation ran its course, but several others popped up in the meantime. We had a creationism vs evolution debate, a thread about whether or not Barack Obama is a Muslim Marxist, a conversation about the reality of global warming/human-caused climate changed, a discussion about how Israel is right to bombard Gaza the way it currently is… and more.
You get the picture. The frustrating thing is that I held the minority opinion on every subject under discussion. I stopped posting after a while—I didn’t have time to do justice to any of the topics under discussion.
I normally enjoy a good flamewar. But when discussions like these involve fundamentalist Christians there is a tendency to start labelling other people as heretics and in danger of blasphemy and hellfire. The accusation rarely comes up directly, but it often gets phrased as ‘…saying what you said is dancing on the edge of heresy.’
Then there will be a discussion about whether or not it is possible to hold such views and remain a Christian. That’s normally when I take my cue to leave the discussion.
Don Heatley offers this parable:
The Kingdom of God is like a student studying for an exam. Night after night, he studied Chapter Twelve of his history book. “Surely, I am prepared for my test,” he thought. The very next day he went to school and sat his desk. Behold! The test was on Chapter Thirteen. He had studied for the wrong test. He who has ears, let him hear!
Don goes on to explain:
Recently, I was having a conversation with a sincere fellow Jesus follower who demanded to know my beliefs. The questions they asked made it clear that this too was a test. The very first thing they wanted to know was my stand on homosexuality, my opinions about abortion, and my beliefs about the Bible.
I don’t think I passed.
Yet I wonder if, like the student in the parable, this person was studying for the wrong test. When we pass out the number two pencils and evaluate the orthodoxy of others, why are the criteria always issues that Jesus himself never addressed? Would it not be more appropriate to ask one another the questions Jesus asked, “Have you fed the hungry? Have you given water to the thirsty? Have you clothed the naked? Have you visited the imprisoned?”
This is why I don’t appreciate being threatened with hellfire for holding the views I do on certain subjects. God is not going to be testing me on my stance on evolution, homosexuality, climate change or American politics. He is going to be judging me on the questions of whether or not I loved him, and whether or not I loved my neighbour.
Even more importantly, he’s going to be judging me not on my works, but on the work of Jesus. That’s a theological concept I struggle to get my head around. Maybe I need to do more study.