Pop Quiz

Pop Quiz (1,171)

June 8th, 2011

It had been an immensely successful week of practice. The football team was excited, the coaches were pumped and everybody was jumping in the air at the pep rally, completely confident that our team was going to win. We looked good as we went through our paces. People even stopped complaining about wind sprints and tried to run faster. We were totally enthralled with our excellence and convinced that we were going to give a thumping to Marion Catholic, the team in our division at the top of the ranks. We even got off the bus at the field in Marion with a certain pomp and circumstance. Yet two hours later, we left that same field, having been thoroughly beaten up and destroyed—64 to nothing.

We obviously had over-assessed our potential.

There are quizzes in life. We keep trying to cram for a final exam which never comes, but instead, we discover that the grade we make is based upon little, pesky tests that come up without our preparation.

For let us be honest—you can’t judge a football team by its practices. That’s why we play games. You can’t judge a musician by the quality of his instrument. They why they conduct recitals and performances. You can’t judge a writer by the number of books he or she has read, but rather, by the unfolding of a story.

And you can’t judge Judaism by how well the synagogue service goes or the fine execution in precision for the circumcision. Judaism is judged by how well they decide to treat the Palestinians. Folks may disagree, but our religious practices do not determine our true worth. It’s how we play the game.

I do not judge the Muslim religion by the consensus of the Koran, but rather, by the interpretation and the world-view of the followers—in our present day—of the prophet, Mohammed. If you Muslims and Jews both share the same father in Abraham, then please don’t talk to me about anything at all until you resolve your family squabble.

Buddhism is not judged by how many Hollywood stars adhere to its tenets, but rather, by what the Buddhist is going to do when the removal of pleasure doesn’t solve every problem.

It is the pop quiz that determines if what we believe works in life or whether it’s just another passing philosophy—to either sell books or stimulate conversation over a boring dinner party. Because Christianity cannot be evaluated by whether great liturgy, communion services, baptisms or scriptural interpretations have been faithfully achieved. No, Christianity has to be assessed on three criteria:

1. Have we separated ourselves from Judaism enough to be followers of Jesus instead of being confounded because we are hauling the Old Testament along with our new vehicle? I have nothing against the Old Testament, nor against Jews. But Christianity is not the off-spring of Moses and Abraham. It is the new creature, translating God into everyday life and make the Divine wishes as practical as humanly possible.

2. Do we love our enemies? If we’re going to treat our adversaries with as much contempt, anger, frustration and revenge as the rest of the world, then Christianity has nothing to offer to the great conversation except dreams of a crucified leader. If the whole population of the planet earth insists on attacking those who attack us, then we need some spiritual ointment that soothes the burning sensation of vengeance. If the church is not going to provide that balm, then the church needs to die out with its aging members.

3. Hold ourselves to a standard and therefore be the light of the world to those who do not share our perspective. I do not expect Jewish people to act any better than Palestinians, nor do I anticipate Muslims to be any more responsible than Jews. I have no particular desire to place responsibility onto anyone else but myself. Having the mission of being the salt of the earth and the light of the world demands that I bring flavor and illumination to a world that has become bland and dim. I do not expect the rest of my brothers and sisters to perform the mission that God gave to me. Rather, I am asking myself to be Jesus.

Perhaps in the pursuit of this pattern of behavior, we can establish a record of success that gains the attention of those souls who might be more interested in progress than in tradition. Without the example, we merely have the meanest bully controlling the playground. I do not wish to live that way, thank you.

Like our football team so many years ago, simply practicing one’s craft does not guarantee success on the field. The game must be played. And the game requires two very distinct procedures: (a) Faithfulness to the plan, and (b) Evolving the plan towards greater faithfulness.

The church will be quizzed over the next year as this country tries to disembowel itself once again over issues of “conservative and liberal.” Are we going to join the Internet buzz of infernal babbling and accuse one another of non-patriotism and false doctrines, or are we going to step up to the plate and say, “Caesar can have what Caesar demands. But God should get His due.”

And God’s due is that we should love our enemies.

How do we do that? First, by acknowledging that doing anything else is less than adequate. And secondly, by believing deep in our hearts that our enemies do not determine our destiny. We do.

There are pop quizzes all the time. And the only way to make the grade is by being aware that they are destined to be—so we can know where we are in the great classroom of life.

Published in: on June 8, 2011 at 12:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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