“Standardized” Christianity

One thing that baffles me is the standardized test. You know how it works: every year a test is given to children through the public school system. The tests are graded, and each child is ranked by his or her scores.

I could see the value in such testing IF:

Each child were given the exact same information in the exact same way by the same teacher

Each child had identical life experiences:

Had the same parents

Had the same type of personality

Learned in the same way

Paid attention at the same time(!)

Met all the same people, had the same friends

Read all the same books

Seen the same TV programs and movies

Heard the same radio programs or conversations

Had experienced the same illnesses, traumas, injuries, and deaths

Lived in the same culture (even America has many sub-cultures)

Think about all the input we have every day in so many ways. What two people do you know who share identical knowledge? I can’t think of any – even in my own family of seven children. One or the other always came up with information that no one in the house knew.

How, then, can we administer a “standardized” test and accurately evaluate who’s the smartest? Which child do we choose as the standard? Does this seem absurd to anyone besides me?

For the same reasons, Christianity can’t be “standardized” either.

Of course, there is only ONE way into God’s family. That is by acknowledging our sin and imperfection which separated us from a holy God, accepting that Jesus bore the punishment for that sin – He took our place on Death Row and was executed instead of us. When we receive His gift of salvation, we are reconciled to God and He now calls us His child and “friend.” That still amazes me.

No amount of money, work, or any “good” behavior can pay anyone’s way into heaven. (Good by whose standard, by the way, ours – or God’s?) As the Bible says, what do we have that we did not first receive from our Creator in the first place? It would be like trying to pay off a debt by using the Lender’s checkbook. That won’t work.

The entrance into heaven is only as wide as the cross. There is no other way. Period. Jesus said it, and He meant it.

Beyond that, however, our relationships with Him are as varied as the people on the planet. The same list of requirements for standardized testing in schools applies to our understanding and walk with Him.

You see, I don’t think God owns a copy machine. I don’t think He’s ever made the same thing twice in all His existence. Blades of the same type of grass have variations that are unique to each one. Snowflakes? Same thing. Even identical twins are not truly identical. Very similar, sure, but never exact.

It is for this reason that we can’t standardize Christianity either. He relates to and teaches each of us in a way that is unique because each of us is a special blend of personality, experiences, culture, and genetics. That’s why a hundred people can hear the same sermon and come away with a hundred different understandings of what was said. It all gets filtered through our life experiences, and thus has unique nuances for each person.

I used to become distressed whenever I met another Christian who had a different understanding than I did about God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, or theology in general. It became my task to get them on the right path (making me the standard to which they must conform). That didn’t go very well; I frustrated and/or offended many people.

Praise God! Even my own understanding of the Lord has changed over the years. I don’t want those old beliefs back – ever!

How does He communicate with you, I wonder?

For me it’s hummingbirds, heart-shaped rocks, thoughts that pop into my mind, mental pictures, beautiful sunsets. We talk, we dance together (although if you watched, you’d think I was dancing by myself!), He opens my eyes to understand His Word and show me the treasures He has tucked away in them.

I don’t have it all figured out yet – I agree with very little that I “knew for sure” when I began this blog in 2009. In another four years, I probably won’t agree with all I “know for sure” now. That’s part of the growing process, and even the most mature believer still doesn’t know it all.

Just as a human body is made up of a jillion cells, each has its own function and purpose, so the body of Christ is made up of a jillion individuals – each with their own function. We need each one. Let’s seek unity in the body – not uniformity.

Christianity can not be “standardized.


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