We are heading towards spring and the time when schools close for the summer. Students will get report cards with grades to show how well they have done at school. Some students have done their best to get good grades and have worked hard on their assignments. Some others have, for some reason, not worked so hard and will probably get lower grades. Yet some others may have had health problems that have interfered with their studies.
Students are usually interested in their grades, as are also their friends, relatives and other acquaintances. Quite understandably, students with good grades receive positive feedback from other people. Students who have not done so well may not like to discuss their grades publicly. It would be good if grading did not discourage students from further studies but rather increased their motivation to work conscientiously on their assignments.
I have wondered if believers also tend to evaluate their own or other people’s endeavor in faith with a grading system? Does one get a better grade for going to services or church often or by volunteering to work? Do even those who want to listen to God’s word quietly on their own and believe it personally for themselves merit to be called disciples? Who has the right and authority to evaluate the state of another person’s soul.
Faced with such questions, I feel myself shrink away both as a person and as a believer. I admit that I have sometimes wondered and evaluated other people based on what they have done or said. I have pondered whether some words of deeds have arisen from faith or sin. As far as I understand, if we are genuinely worried about the state of the soul of someone, we have the right to approach that person with mercy and truth. Have I always had the strength or courage to approach such a person, or have I perhaps shared my concerns with someone else? Pondering on such matters, I cannot give myself a very good grade. And my evaluation of my own endeavor in faith is even lower.
After my accident and the disability that ensued I also felt spiritually disabled and experienced my most serious crisis of faith so far. I was no longer able to go to services in the way I used to. My brain injury makes me tired, unable to concentrate properly, and overwhelmed by social contacts, and I therefore cannot go to services every week, or I go and only listen to one speech. Neck pain makes it difficult to sit in the pew, especially as I also need to avoid inadvertent jostling by other service guests, which may cause dreadful symptoms. In bigger services I often need to take a break and rest by myself for a while.
Going to services has not been the only challenge in my spiritual crisis. It is not easy to accept and acknowledge that I can no longer participate in the work of God’s kingdom in the way I used to. It has been painful to give up my turns at accompanying the singing as well as the kitchen crew and various long-term tasks. I sometimes feel envious looking at my friends actively involved in their duties, which allow them to feel that they are truly part of their home congregation. Although I know it is not always easy to leave the home for such duties, I also know that we often feel an uplifting sense of fellowship while working together.
Looking at myself, I have struggled with the question of whether I can still consider myself a believer, being so crippled and doubting. How can I find my place among the others? Am I acceptable before God?
With such thoughts I once sat in the pew at the back of the sanctuary. I was aroused from my pondering by the speaker’s words: ”If Jesus came to our services tonight, guess who He would go to meet first? He would go to the one with a broken mind who feels weak and unacceptable.” I awoke from my reverie with a start. My eyes filled with tears, and my mind filled with light. I realized there may be many other listeners who feel the same way. The speaker continued to preach all listeners their sins forgiven in Jesus’ name and blood. I felt safe to believe those comforting words to myself.
Martha and Mary both had a place in Jesus’ company. One of them was hardworking and active, but she probably also listened to Jesus’ instruction while working. The other sat quietly listening and did not participate in practical chores.
There is still room in God’s Kingdom for both Marthas and Marys. When our time comes to leave, we will not be asked how hard we worked to earn the grace. The only thing we will be asked is whether we have faith in our heart. Are our sins forgiven and are we at peace with God? Possessing that grace and peace, we can safely close our eyes to this world and be removed from time to eternity into our heavenly home with God.
Text: Raija Vesterinen
Translation: S.-L. Leinonen
You will find the original Finnish blog post here.
Kirkolliskokousvaalit ovat takana, ja valituiksi tulleet edustajat valmistautuvat toukokuussa alkavaan nelivuotiseen istuntokauteensa. Siihen onkin syytä valmistautua huolella, sillä kirkolliskokous päättää isoista asioista, kuten kirkon oppia ja työtä koskevista keskeisistä linjauksista sekä kirkon hallinnosta ja taloudesta. Kirkolliskokous vaikuttaa merkittävästi myös kirkkoa koskevaan lainsäädäntöön.
Kirja erilaisuudesta, elämän ainutlaatuisuudesta ja rikkaudesta: teoksessa puheenvuoron saavat erityislapset, heidän läheisensä sekä aiheen parissa työskentelevät ammattilaiset.
Kurssi on suunnattu rauhanyhdistysten johtokunnille, taloudenhoitajille ja muille vastuunkantajille.