Originally published September 17, 2013.
“Four hundred thirty seven”
“Sorry, that’s not right. Try again, Buddy.”
scribble scribble scribble
“Oh, ok. Four hundred thirty seven.”
“No, Honey. You just said that, and I just told you it was wrong. Give it another try.”
“But it’s 437!”
“Son, I have the answer book right here in front of me. The answer is not 437. Repeating the wrong answer over and over again doesn’t magically make it right.”
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had this conversation -nearly verbatim- with each of my four children in the fourteen years I’ve been home schooling.
But I can tell you that this morning was the first time I realized that this is the same way many people relate to God and the Bible.
When this dialogue takes place between my child and me, it is because the child has done something wrong. He has forgotten to carry the one. Confused a peninsula with an isthmus. Mistaken an adverb for an adjective.
But he can’t see what he’s done wrong, or indeed, that he’s done anything wrong. And because he’s blind to his wrongness, his default position is to assume that he is right and I am wrong. Forget that he’s in fifth grade and I have a bachelor’s degree, half a master’s degree, and nearly two decades of teaching experience. Never mind that this is the fourth time I’ve taught fifth grade from this very same book. Completely disregarded is the fact that I have the teacher key right in front of me that shows exactly what he did wrong and what the right answer is.
No. He’s right. I’m wrong. The book is wrong. Math is stupid.
Foolishness is indeed bound up in the heart of a child.
But foolishness is bound up in all of our hearts when it comes to sin:
“My husband annoys me. God wouldn’t want me to be
miserable for the rest of my life, so my
relationship with the guy at work is just fine.”
“What the Bible says about
homosexuality only had to do
with male cult prostitutes, so my
monogamous homosexual relationship
with my partner isn’t a sin.”
“I’ve gone to church all my life.
Once, I even repeated a ‘sinner’s
prayer’ and was baptized. It doesn’t
matter what my life looks like now,
I’m sure I’m saved because of that.”
“The Bible says women aren’t
to instruct men in the church?
But I feel that God has called me
to be a pastor, so that verse must
not mean what it clearly says.”
Over and over we say it, hoping to convince ourselves, to drown out God’s law that’s written on our hearts, and to shout down anyone who would call us to repentance. Because we’re blind to our wrongness, our default position is to assume that we’re right and God, and His word, are wrong. Never mind the fact that He’s God -Creator of the entire universe, knows everything, sees everything, has power over everything, and is perfect in holiness- and we’re, well… not.
No. We’re right. He’s wrong. The Bible is wrong. People who agree with God’s word are just haters.
But, just like I tell my children: repeating the wrong answer over and over again doesn’t magically make it right. When each of us stands before God on the day of judgment, it’s not going to matter how many times we’ve tried to convince ourselves, others, and God that our way is right. It’s only going to matter what God says is right.
There is a way that seems right to a man,
but its end is the way to death.
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