Grading Grace? Its Time To Stop Measuring Faith and Start Living Faithfully

Now that fall is here, we’re back into school and grading.  We’re measuring how are grades are coming along.  We’re taking a look at our football teams to see if they measure up.  Have you ever felt as though you simply didn’t measure up in your faith? I think that is something many feel and few feel able to talk about it.  We can make jokes about not measuring up to our exercise goals or in our careers.  There are memes in abundance (plus Dilbert and The Office keep us in good company).  Relationships and marriages provide great material for stand-up comedy and sit-coms.

But we sure do not seem to find much humor in our faith, or if we do it is more a matter of ridicule than anything.  Maybe that is why we don’t feel as though we are getting anywhere?  Or maybe it is the entire idea that we are even to “measure up” against something?  Or maybe it is we really haven’t even felt like we could really TALK about faith?

You do realize clergy face the same, right?  Yep, we’re to be “super-Christian” or “Bible Answermen/women.”  Numbers are batted about regarding our churches that we serve as measures of our success.  But these aren’t measures of our faith, only of our vocation.  Our faith and our vocation get so wrapped together they become inseperable and then who do the clergy TALK to about faith without it becoming about vocational achievement?

Maybe I am wrong to bring it up but I suspect both laity and clergy feel the reality of a weight unjustly tied to our faith and our journey of faith.  Our questioning, our wonderings, our wanderings, our messes, our doubting, our worries, all of these seem to be forced down into ourselves by a sinister (yes, and I do mean precisely that: sinister) tendency to establish measurements to that which is not meant to be measured.

Do we measure beauty?  Do we measure compassion?  What is the measurement we use for grace?  How do we measure trustworthiness? Have we found a way to measure love?  

Yet, in our churches (maybe even the Church), it seems to me, we have indeed found a way, even if unofficially, to measure one’s faith, and in so doing, it seems we have taken the “easy yoke” and the “light burden” of Jesus and have added to it in such a way that the faith our fathers and mothers has become something they would never recognize (see, Matthew 11:30). I certainly don’t think my Grandma Hagler would get it!

Being away from the pulpit for nearly 8 months gave me a new view of things.  Sitting in the pews and listening intently, I heard voices and thoughts I had not heard as a pastor.  My own faith journey, rattled and challenged by suffering, death and grief, has given me pause to ask questions and led me to wonder aloud.  When we allow (even encourage) competition in our spirituality, do we leave room for grace?  Those gold stars for memorizing books of the Bible discouraged me from Sunday School!  

This is by no way an endorsement for antinomianism, a belief that there is no standard or behavior for our faith. It is a statement for spiritual practices to be used to further a relationship with God, not to become a means for determining just how “good” of a Christian we can be.  We must move from grading grace to living in grace, entering into the relationship with God and becoming who God desires. Start with prayer. Start with reading one book of the Bible. Start with regularly attending church or mass. Start by attending a Bible Study. Start with having coffee and have a conversation with a good friend about faith. Start with something but START with believing God wants to be in a relationship with you and that it isn't intended to be a to-do is intended to be a love relationship!!!

May I Ask?
So what is it you’re wondering about?  On what paths have you found yourself wandering?  Who have you found helpful to talk to?


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