There’s a story in the news today about a 106-year-old Ohio woman who has been given her high school diploma, even though she did not fulfill the requirements for graduation.  Years back, she refused to do the final required assignment–to read a book–in order to pass English and have the credits she needed to graduate.  She claims to have said that she had read the book in the past, and no one was going to make her read it again if she didn’t want to.  The teacher, supported by the school, upheld state educational law and denied her credit for the class, meaning that she did not meet the standards to graduate.  Now they have had a change of heart and have reversed their decision because…well, I guess just because she’s old.  This is just another example of the disregard that our society has for achievement.

Several years ago I conducted a survey of students in our high school in order to determine how they viewed the importance of achievement versus other factors such as effort or fairness.  I proposed a theoretical situation where the PE teacher was testing students on their ability to do chin-ups (today called pull-ups in order to accommodate, I assume, people who have no chins).  The majority response was that a student who attempted a chin-up should not only pass the test, but get the same grade as a student who performed one or more of the exercises.  Furthermore, a smaller majority answered the survey by saying that even a person who would not attempt a chin-up (for any reason whatsoever) should pass the test, though with a lower grade than one who tried or accomplished the task.

Understanding that many non-athletic students do not believe that physical requirements should be tested or used to determine a student’s grade, I changed the questions, and targeted an English assignment.  Once again, the students said that anyone who attempted a term paper, even if they didn’t finish the assignment or meet the requirement should get a passing grade.  Only the student who did nothing and turned in nothing should get a failing grade–but even that grade should be high enough that it would not have a significant impact on the student’s overall grade for the term.

In essence, my students believed that anyone who attend school should pass every class, even if they do not actively participate; and anyone who tries the work should get grades equal to those who succeed in completing the work as required.  Effort, intent, fairness, and perhaps other factors were held to be as important as achievement.  In the case of this elderly woman, the teachers and administration today apparently felt that it was unfair to deny her a diploma any longer, out of deference to her longevity alone. 

On a spiritual note, God does not judge us on our intentions, efforts, or our expectation of fairness toward us.  He will never say, “Welcome, sort-of-good, kind-of-faithful person; I’ll let you into my Heaven because you tried to keep my commandments.”  Christ does not reward us for the wood, hay, or stubble that we build into the house of our spiritual life–Christian behavior is judged by what remains of the story of our life after He burns away all the unworthy parts.  We will give account for what we have done (not just tried) for Him.

[If we were judged based on our efforts, that would mean that salvation is something that we could earn if we tried, and God would owe us credit for anything we try or intend to do to please Him.  On the contrary, salvation itself is based on Jesus Christ’s achievement by laying down His life a sacrificial offering for our sins.  Our part in His salvation–our ticket to eternal life and heavenly blessings is based on the completed adoption process achieved when we surrender to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior of our lives.  By the way, I don’t know of any place in the Bible where God assigned a believer to do a task for Him, and then He didn’t give them the power, wisdom, and direction to meet the goal.  When we stand before the judgment seat of Christ, our salvation is already a done deal; but we will lose reward when we have failed in the assignments He has given us.]

Which takes me back to a bumper sticker I used to have:  “God doesn’t grade on a curve.”  While He may choose to show us mercy and grace while we walk this earth, the day is coming when the grade He gives will be Pass or Fail–and I surely don’t want to fail.  A big red “F” on that final report card is a guaranteed ticket to a place that starts with a big red “H”, if you know what I mean.  That’s why I accepted as a teenager the eternal grace of Christ’s completed work which was accomplished when He died on the cross.  And that’s when He wrote my name in the Lamb’s Honor Roll of Life, never to be crossed out.