“If the Sermon on the Mount sets forth God’s standard of holiness, I may as well resign from the start.” – Phillip Yancey, The Jesus I Never Knew
Okay. First, 65 is a good score. Pass mark. I mean, I can count all the 65’s I made in my undergraduate days. Second, don’t take that score too seriously. Even I don’t know how I arrived at it. All I know is I’m not as bad as you think I am. Well, partial holiness is not what this post is about. We all know what the Bible says – all or nothing. This post is about whether what I’ve gotten right counts or not.
I have tried to live like God would have me do. I have tried to depend on grace and the debt Jesus paid for me on the cross. I have tried to love my neighbour as myself. I have tried to walk the walk and talk the talk. I have failed at some and I have excelled at others. What I want to know now is if my successes in these areas matter to God. Does he look at me and reward the effort I have made in those areas or does he think “till she gets this right, she’s wasting her time”?
First, I believe questions like these spurred the Catholic Church’s stance on Mortal and Venial Sins. Maybe they wanted their members not to feel so terrible about their failures. Hey, you didn’t kill anybody, you just lied to her for no reason. With such categorization, all sins are not equal or at least, all sins are forgiven differently. It’s the same thing with Islam. Yunno, doing enough good deeds to outweigh your bad deeds. Only Jesus asked for perfection. He took the law and raised the bar even higher. Second, I think this is bothering me because I’ve been taught that God rewards holiness. He rewards those who obey his commands and live as he wants them to live, and maybe I’m bothered because I don’t think I’ve been rewarded for my little holiness. Sounds shitty, I know. Does the reward only come when your holiness is complete? And don’t tell me Christianity isn’t about rewards.
It is. The bible is a collection of promises and a purveyor of hope.
I’m about to enter a new phase of life and the thing about endings is that it triggers a lot retrospection. You start to examine and question your actions and experiences in the now-coming-to-an-end phase. Throughout my time in university, I didn’t engage in exam malpractice. The reasons are plenty: my pride, my activism, my reputation, my inexperience with it and my faith. Did it matter to God that I was at least faithful in this little thing? No, it didn’t come easy for me and so it’s not default or easygoing holiness. It did hurt. It did attack my sense of worth. Did it matter to him that I chose D’s when I could have swapped booklets or asked for answers and gotten an A? Or did he think about my envy and lack of gratitude, my refusal to love idiots as I love myself?
Most of my Christian friends have testimonies from their refusal to do malpractice. Beautiful testimonies and sometimes I wonder about my lack of testimonies. Am I wasting my time? Will it only count when I become very grateful for salvation? Cos right now, I feel God doesn’t see the work I do or the sacrifices I have made. Consequent of these thoughts, I have gone on to do and say and be many things I’m not proud of. Just because I felt its “all or nothing” and I don’t have “all” so what’s the point? But now that I think about it, my Christian friends aren’t perfect either.
I guess there’s something they must be doing right.