Most people today seem to think they are doing “good enough” when it comes to pleasing God. In fact, they seem confident that if there is a God, He will have no difficulty in seeing their “goodness” and welcoming them into heaven. In my last post, I suggested that these people seem to think that God is grading them on a curve. They really don’t need to worry much about the next life, because God won’t expect that much of them. But how sound a conclusion is that?
Grading on a curve means usually means that the teacher is taking into consideration the difficulty of the subject matter and adjusting downward the grading scale. If most of the class gets a 60 on the test, and if the test is particularly difficult, then what would otherwise be an F might in fact become an A. This downward adjustment in grading seems to be increasingly common these days; it’s called “grade inflation.” We can also see it in children’s sports, where it is increasingly common for kids to receive trophies simply for showing up; where games that can only be won or lost by totaling up the points earned are no longer being scored; where, in short, kids are given the impression that holding themselves to a standard of excellence is not only unnecessary, it isn’t even important. This readjustment of what constitutes a “good” outcome often makes intuitive sense to people. After all, they reason, we are not perfect, so why should we expect ourselves to live up to perfect expectations?
But grade inflation doesn’t apply to every field, and a moment’s reflection should make us thankful that it does not. The Navy runs a nuclear power school for its next generation of officers who will handle one of the most dangerous activities known to man. If a particular class of students just isn’t up to snuff, flunking them and starting fresh with a new class makes perfect sense. Similarly, would anyone want to fly with a pilot, or be operated upon by a surgeon, who really didn’t master the subject matter but got an A anyway? In these areas, even if no one in the class can perform up to what is required, wouldn’t common sense still dictate that grading on a curve would be a very bad idea?
So what kind of class is this thing we call human life, what test will we be taking, and what exactly does the “teacher” expect of us? The “bad news” of Christianity, of course, is that a perfect God has some pretty high standards. Far from grading on a curve, we are told that though many are invited, few are chosen. In short, God is not grading on a curve, but is instead expecting – no, requiring – us to have a perfect score. That’s why standing before God trying to impress him with your accomplishments is such a bad idea. We’re dealing with a schoolmaster who not only is perfection, he also demands it. Any deviation, however trivial in our view, is an eternal offense against his perfection.
These reflections may make God seem… well, rather horrible. Does he take delight in catching each of our transgressions, like some sadistic teacher who, with rod in hand, is looking for any excuse to beat his students? No, the punishment we face is a necessary consequence of his justice. He cannot simply accept us “just as we are,” because allowing lawbreakers to escape accountability and punishment for their misdeeds is unjust. But we need not insist on having things our way. The good news of Christianity is that God, in his perfect fairness, provided us a solution. In a manner of speaking, he took the “beating” which we deserved upon himself. Jesus, as both God and man, was the only being who could stand before God and not be in need of forgiveness, as he lived a perfect life. He then traded his righteousness for our sin, balancing the books in an eternal transaction that allows us to become pure again. If we accept Christ into our hearts and lives, He will do a work in us, making us perfect so that reuniting with God becomes possible. Or, we can continue to shake our fist at God, die in our rebellion, and face eternal separation from him. Either way, he will respect our choice.
Thankfully for us, we need not fear the final exam; we need not worry about the grading curve. God the Son has already taken it for us and passed the test with a perfect score. It is simply for us to place our trust in Him.
Posted by Al Serrato