How Are Your Grades?

What if God decided to assess our spiritual performance by using nine-week grading periods?

Or, if the Trinity preferred, trimesters could be instituted, with some form of cumulative assessment at the end of each.

Either way, everybody knows when these terms come to a close. The rectangle yard of my desk usually serves as a harbinger. There, unmarked papers start multiplying like white bunnies, while those with red streaks huddle together next the computer, waiting to be placed in their cage.

Why must it take so long to stuff them inside?

And then a flood of e-mail from worried parents pours through my inbox. They complain of a string of zeros posted online and don’t want their children to sink through them. In desperation, they’re sorting through the stories that they’ve been hearing from their children.

And, for some reason, my students have turned cordial. Extremely cordial. They talk to me. They come to my desk — even without being asked.

One by one, they beseech me to check their grades. They crave the latest update, wanting to stay at least one step ahead of their parents. They need to know how to handle tonight’s questions at dinner.

But even if their grades are down, they still show their teeth when they talk to me.

“Mr. Kreider, is there anything I can do for extra credit?”

“I can’t play in the game tonight if my grade is still a D.”

“I’m grounded.”

“I just don’t understand why I have a C in this class, but I have all A’s and B’ in my other classes.”

“I know I did that assignment, Mr. Kreider. Yes, I totally remember turning it in. I put in on your desk. I know I did it.”

They’re looking for deals. They’re looking for understanding. What they’re looking for, really, is an academic form of communion.

Are we any different in our relationship with God?

Sometimes, as their teacher, I want to cast students into a lake of fire and brimstone as an eternal punishment. As I look down over their abysmal performance, justice demands that they suffer for their sins, right?

But sometimes I just want to wrap them in a blanket of grace, too.

Some end-of-term observations:

  1. Just like students, we become increasingly interested in God’s evaluation of our performance, as soon as we sense the end of something.
  2. Like parents, we grow increasingly worried about the performance of our loved ones, as soon as we see them approach the end of something.
  3. Like anyone, we begin spending more time with God, as soon as we experience a profound desperation of need.
  4. Finally, like Adam on his way out of the garden, we start pointing to all sorts of excuses.

Yet God holds the detailed accounting of the term. With a keen and a holy eye, He has observed the endless failures and the ongoing laziness. Every day.

And yet.

And yet He didn’t wait with stern, disapproving eyes for us to slink toward His desk with a binder full of guilt and shame.

Instead, He sends His Son down the aisle to our desk. He wants to teach us the greatest lesson of all: We are loved. We are loved in spite of our performance. But this lesson takes more than cramming or memorization. It takes revelation.

And once we grasp this lesson in our hearts, without any cheating, we finally let go of our heavy binders and quickly raise our hands.

Because we have already been called.

28 thoughts on “How Are Your Grades?

  1. Oh, I loved this. At the fire and brimstone remark, I laughed out loud. The entire post is so funny because it’s just so true. I have taught both middle school and high school, and that is exactly how students and parents are, especially near the end of a term. As you point out, it’s all so understandable too. I love the spiritual correlation here. Well said!

    • Judgment and evaluation — typically not the funniest subjects in the world. But teachers have a way of seeing things differently, don’t we? Thanks for laughing and commiserating. I know you’ve seen it, too. Glad you can see the spiritual correlations as well. Thanks, Denise!

  2. Ah, it’s midterm week. I had to smile as I read your description (um, please get off my toes?) of the scramble that comes with grade time :). And now I am looking deeper and asking how I’m doing. I am so thankful for grace, Matthew. So thankful.

    • We have been called. But we’re called to answer, too.

      Still, I believe we have no enduring willpower which will ensure we answer — apart from the full revelation of God’s love. Fear of judgement will move us a step closer to that revelation. But the journey will only be completed as we learn to receive and fully embrace His love. We need a second Holy wind.

      • Good stuff, Matt. Thanks for starting the discussion. The outcome, or anticipated result, of our judgement may cause fear because we know we’re not perfect and because we screw up and because we know one day we’ll be held accountable. It’s interesting to consider that our fear may motivate us to move closer. I suppose that’s only human. Fear can be a great inspiration! In my opinion, ideally, and with much greater difficulty, our motivation to move closer, to obey and please Him, should be our love for Him. Take fear out of it altogether. I believe the believer will come through his/her moment of judgement humbled but not humiliated, sobered but not broken. Ultimately we will be rewarded for those good works we did do, for how we lived for Christ. To me that’s HOPE. Something to strive for, something to live for, something to look forward to. That’s not so scary. No need to fear that. Here’s a link to a site about the Judgement Seat of Christ I’d recommend reading. I thought it did a pretty good job of laying it out with real, honest to goodness references in scripture to support the explanation. http://bible.org/article/doctrine-rewards-judgment-seat-bema-christ.

  3. I’m glad God doesn’t give us report cards. I’m afraid many of us would not like the grade we received. However, we do need to remember, that there will be a judgment day. Once gain I’m thankful for Jesus and for what He did for each of us. Thank you for sharing this interesting post.
    Blessings,
    Charlotte

    • Yes, there will be a judgment day. And I was reminded of that, in another sense, on Sunday when our pastor said our performance does matter. Christians will be judged for how we spent His love. Our work will be judged.

      I confess that I don’t fully understand how He will judge us. But it must have something to do with whether our work for Him flickered or flamed during our stay here.

      I’m just thankful for His Grace. It’s the only fuel source which is powerful enough to move us to love beyond any flickering of ourselves.

  4. I take comfort in the fact that at the moment of salvation, all of my sins – past, present, and future – were wiped clean and will never be held against me in judgement. It gives the ultimate sense of security to know that God won’t hold me accountable for those transgressions. Do I constantly need to worry about being evaluated from a “where is my soul is going to end up for eternity” perspective? Nope. Thankfully, I don’t need to go running back to Him for a constant check on my status. License to sin? Nope. Will God judge my works as a believer at the Judgement Seat of Christ and hold me accountable for my service or lack of it? Yes. With respect to our union with God, I believe we are sealed forever, free of judgement, free of condemnation, free of worry about where we’ll be spending eternity, but not free of sin. It’s our fellowship with God, that close, personal relationship we enter into with Him after salvation, that suffers when we sin. That’s what we need to be mindful of.

    • “It’s our fellowship with God, that close, personal relationship we enter into with Him after salvation, that suffers when we sin. That’s what we need to be mindful of.”

      That’s exactly right, Mike. Very well said. Our fellowship is precious. And keeping our eyes on Grace moves us to guard that fellowship above all else.

  5. Hi Mat .. Love the post , thank you for sharing .. we always need to encourage and share with each other what we encounter in life .. God use each one of us in a different way to grow and support others as they grow in Christ .. God bless you and the family .

    • Hey, great to see that you were finally able to leave a comment. I like what you say about the importance of encouragement. I see a great need for encouragement among God’s people. These are days which are heavy with distractions and frustrations.

      My prayer is that my blog will be a place where people can find encouragement, as well as encourage others. All of our words, together, teach and encourage. Thank you for leaving your comment and contributing to that end. Bless you.

  6. Very thought stimulating, Matthew. I wonder if “The Lord is easily pleased – but NEVER satisfied.“ is true, if the red marks on our individual mistakes are healed by His stripes, and if God’s grace is His way of providing extra credit so we can pass.
    Love,
    Ken

    • Good thought, Ken. His Grace is a mystery. I don’t understand how He arranges the curriculum, but I’m thankful it was written to meet His overarching objective of love. It makes for the most glorious learning outcome of all.

    • Jenny, everything is full of meaning to you: You’re an English teacher! Anyway, you’re welcome, friend. Many blessings.

      P.S. Staples is running a great sale on red pens this weekend. See you there.

  7. Its good to be loved without having to pass, its unconditional. I have always loved exams and I still love good Bible Study.. Not all of us are academics, yet all of us us are accept, no matter the grade. Excellent example Matthew and blessings sent from Oz.

    • Unconditional love. What more could we learn? I’m just thankful, so thankful, that I’ve been given the grace to keep learning it every single day. Thanks for your comment tonight. May God bless you every single day, too.

  8. Wow – I love this, Matthew. You have a talent for seeing God’s grace through the lens of your everyday circumstances, and you make it easy to relate. “Academic communion” – love it! Thanks for sharing your unique perspective!

    • Thanks, Jana. We all learn to see Grace through our circumstances and experiences. Mine happen to involve a red pen! I sure hated that pen when I was a kid — and now I’m wielding one every day. How far I’ve come.

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