B: On the subject of this life being a school and everything…more to the point, one might look at it as being one big, long, difficult test.
A: Heh! I’m sure that I’ve done enough wrong to have failed it long ago; there’s no hope for me to “pass” it now.
B: Unless there’s a way that you, or somebody else, could make up for the mistakes you made; i.e., the “questions you got wrong.” There’s gotta be, since otherwise nobody would pass the test; what would be the point of it then? Again, life is rendered purposeless, unless there is some way for our mistakes to be atoned for. But that – as important a subject as it is by itself, by the way – is for a different discussion.
So back to this business about life being a test, as opposed to, say, a vacation, or “recess.” Doesn’t looking at it that way make a difference in how we behave?
A: What are we being “tested” on?
B: Well, I suppose to see if we’re doing the things God wants us to do! If He’s the teacher, and He teaches us certain things, then He wants to see if we’ve learned ‘em.
A: Why does He need to test us, if He already knows if we’ve learned? I thought you said He was omniscient, buddy.
B (irritably raising an eyebrow towards A): A good observation, if not a bit juvenile in its tone of delivery. Indeed God must already know. But just as those interested in the results of a test include not just the administrator, but also the taker, of it, perhaps the object of this particular test is for us to see by ourselves if we’ve learned to do the things God wants us to do, or to be the creatures God wants us to be.
Think of it this way: if God had told us each individually ahead of time whether or not we would pass the “test” of life, don’t you think we’d like to see for ourselves how the whole thing would pan out? That is, wouldn’t we try to “prove” ourselves, whether we are deserving of the outcome or not?
But remember that the “test” idea is just an analogy. The reality is that this test is something we have to take, not necessarily to get our “grade,” but because it is through the taking of this test that we become whatever it is we become.
So what kinds of “questions” are on the test? Any time we are challenged to go against what God has taught us, or what He has commanded us to do, we are faced with the decision to obey God or not. And I’m saying that the test of this life is full of this kind of decision, or “question.” It comes up over and over. Actually, it’s the only kind of question on the entire test. And it’s really a very simple question, because the “right” answer is always to obey God. What’s hard is in the actual making of that correct choice.
A: Buddy, would you cool it with all the finger quotes?!
B: So let’s have an example, say with something tough; and one of the toughest things about life is that we don’t ever know how things are going to work out. We don’t know whether we can get a job, say, or whether that job will be enough to support us, or how long we’ll keep it, or how successful we’ll be at it. Same kind of thing with the spouse or children we may eventually hope to have. We also worry about current affairs such as political situations, both domestic and foreign. And countless other things – for crying out loud, so many stankin’ things to worry about all the time! It’s so incessant; one thing we don’t have to worry about is whether we’ll ever have anything to worry about.
So occasionally, what with all these worries, we get some opportunity to be not quite as entirely honest as we know we should be. Or maybe we get an opportunity to pass some suffering away from us and on to another. It’s easy to justify our actions in these cases with thoughts like “everybody is, or has to be, slightly dishonest from time to time, and people don’t really care anyway,” or “that person can take the hit better than I can; it’s just a really hard time in my life right now.”
My point is that it is in precisely these moments when the test of our faith, which is the test of life, comes. The very purpose of our being in this life is to respond appropriately in such moments. Not that I’m saying it’s easy to respond appropriately. Again, it’s simple enough; everybody knows what God wants them to do. The difficulty, as I said, comes not in the simplicity of the question, but in our carrying out of the proper choice.