Studying for the Wrong Test
By Don Heatley:
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!
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?”
In retrospect, I cannot recall ever being asked those questions by anyone who was attempting to size up my Christianity. I have never had someone ask me, as litmus tests, questions such as, “Does your church have a prison ministry?” or “What are you doing for the homeless?” No one ever asks how I feel about materialism, poverty, war, or if I turn the other cheek. No one ever asks if I have done justice, shown mercy, or acted humbly. No one asks if I have comforted the mourning, been a peacemaker, loved my enemies, or crossed to the other side of the road to care for an outcast. No one asks if I have loved everyone as Christ loves everyone.
That is a good thing, since I would probably fail those tests too. I can take some comfort in the fact that for the most part, no one is cast out of our churches for giving the wrong answers to these kinds of questions—the kinds of questions Jesus asked. Conversely, I routinely read about individuals being expelled from churches and whole congregations leaving denominations over issues that neither Jesus nor our creeds ever mention. I never hear about a congregation severing ties with their denomination because they felt the denomination did not put enough emphasis on loving our neighbors. Perhaps they should.
It is bad enough that we pass out exams to one another. What is even worse is that many of us are studying for the wrong test.