Tuesday, January 13

Studying for the Wrong Test

(My own thoughts are after the article)

Original artice| Link

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?”

the complete article here


I like this article and particularly its parabole and probably I will use it at church.

Reading it and reading the success it has had at its original blog (20 comments already on Tuesday the 13th.) Somehow, I am not that surprised by the reactions.

I think there are two main issues this article points very well to me:

1) The cultural interpretations of the Gospel that limits in itself the real message of the Gospel.

2) The useless division of the gospel in a so called Social Gospel and Spiritual Gospel that again limits the real power of the message.

I will not comment on the second. Social Gospel is a theology of the 70's that some unaware Christians think it still exists. It has evolved and mutated.

I proclaim the kingdom as present reality, yet that is coming soon. My belief on the Kingdom as an Integral Reality should resume my opinion on the second item.

But the first issue, it always makes me wonder. I am always amazed that three main central issues in American Christendom are "Abortion", "Homosexuality", and "Bible fundamentalism".

As I wrotte in a former comment "You need only one bad answer to qualify you as “a dangerous liberal” or even as a "non Christian". Once, an American visitor in my church in Paris told me that Obama was clearly not a Christian because he was not 100% against homosexuality"

These issues are not even themes of discussion in most of European churches. Yet we have other taboos that could make the same three type question test to qualify a true christian.

For example a christian should never mix their moral values with politics here. France is a secular country. French Catholic Church was for centuries in Power. So French protestant holds very close to their hearts " church and state division". A good Christian should never impose in politics his christian point of view.

If homosexuality is not a main issue of discussion (It is still but with lower priority), homosexual parenting is a big issue. Protestants stands here against it without need of thinking or developing their own opinions.

Money, I could write a complete essay on French culture regarding "making money", Christians here have a complex approach to this issue. In France it is no good to show off wealth and making money is usually regarded as obscene.

Back at home in Peru 17 years ago, being a christian was a matter of not smoking, not drinking and carrying a bible all the time an everywhere.

But where is the Kingdom on all these issues? Where is the love of God, the Grace? Where is our engagement to procalim and to give the world a foretaste of the Kingdom coming on these interpretations? Why some christians interpret littealy the Book of Revelations and other prophesies and interpret Mattew 5 on an spirtualized way?

Christianity is so busy and comfortable developing its faith around cultural interpretations and remaining in a "confort zone" of cultural traditional moral values. Indeed, it is more comfortable to hide ourselves behind old local cultural church values rather than having our own opinions, and to look and understand the dynamic changing force of the Gospel.

I do not recall Jesus standing for cultural moral values of his time. Actually, he was accused of challenging them. Am I wrong?
If we all agree that the word of God is alive, why we remain in our old ways of thinking? Should the church way of thinking be a static reality?

"Ecclesia semper reformanda" used to say our reformed fathers and Jean Calvin would complete. "Why do you start it, if you do not continue it?"

Faith is more than defending two or three moral values... if we do so, we will miss completly the real message So we would be studying for the wrong test.


  1. Ricardo,
    I am glad the article resonated with you. In particular, I appreciate the attention you have given to the way some Christians only literalize certain passages of scripture. Also, your description of French churches only underlines how contextual our beliefs can be.

  2. Thanks Don,

    It make me discover your blog too. I will keep an eye on your postings.