I hate merit reviews.
I used to love them. Well, maybe not love, but at least I looked forward to them. And that’s because, somewhere along the way someone told me merit review time meant “raise” time, assuming you did good work. And not a piddly raise you won’t hardly notice. I mean something that really shows appreciation for dedication and quality work. I was a naive nineteen when I started believing that malarky. Clearly, whoever told me that was mistaken. I later received counsel from a more seasoned corporate colleague who revealed merit review time for what it really is – a time to show you what’s wrong, not to highlight what’s right. As it turned out, his assessment held far more true.
I remember a particular merit review I received years ago. It should’ve been good for my wallet. The department was understaffed and that meant me carrying a larger workload. I did this, and humbly, with a great attitude (at least according to the comments from the people I helped). At the review, my manager sat across from me and said everyone loved dealing with me. Only good reports from our clients.But right before my chest filled with expectant air, my manager leaned across the table and said, “… but I can’t give you a 5. Nobody gets a 5.”
For those who don’t know, the scale of these things are usually 1(scum of earth) to 5 (Superman, Mother Theresa, and Muhammad Ali).
I remember thinking, so nobody gets a 5. Nobody! There’s some managerial rule against granting a 5, no matter how great you work? It’s just there as an unattainable goal, a constant reminder of our inadequacy? Really? What kind of rigged test is this anyway? (… and now I’m all agitated. Exhale Antwuan!)
I bring this up because of something I hear more and more these days.
Expecting A Raise
The prevailing thought seems to be that God primarily wants us to be good people, that He is only interested in our ability to outperform our bad acts with good ones.
Most of us imagine our post-death/apocalyptic encounter with God something like this. We’re in a great hall and a magnificent figure, fashioned in a super-bright white robe with electric blue trim (as in real electricity) is standing six inches from our nose, staring into us with eyes alit by flames of fire! This figure, after curling its lip, looks us up and down, then asks, “Why should I let you into my heaven?”
Most of would want to be able to reply, “Because I was a good person.” And then the fire would go out his eyes, and the electricity would dissipate, and a rainbow would appear after the pearly gates opened, and we’d jump in a cab to ride on golden streets to get to that mansion Jesus talked about in John 14.
… or something like that.
But is that really it?
First off, I don’t see God as a robed figure with electricity and fire. And second, though we’d like to think Judgment Day, or our post death experience, will be like a merit review about how good we were here on Earth, it won’t. Because if it were, we’d all fail.
According to the Bible, God’s scale is way worse than the scale your corporation uses. While they employ a 1 to 5 scale, God’s uses a 1 or 5 scale. To put it churchy, either you’re a sinner or you’re a saint. To put it casually, either you were awesome or you sucked. To put it bluntly, either you were perfect or weren’t good enough.
We hear the phrase, “Nobody is perfect,” all the time (especially when someone feels “judged.”) The fact that we aren’t 5 people isn’t news. But heaven is the ultimate 5 star resort. Seriously. God will not coexist with sin… not even little ones. Look, we saw what one little sin did the first time (hello Adam and Eve). God’s standard for heaven is the ultimate good… perfection. We only need to fail one time to disqualify ourselves. We’ve all failed, so we’re all disqualified (or maybe unqualified is better) by God’s standards. Every single one of us.
So if “being good” isn’t what God wants from us (or if it is and we simply can’t live up to it), what do we do?
Enter GRACE. Jesus and his sacrifice takes our efforts out of the picture altogether. We don’t need to work up to heaven, or worry about under-performing our way out of it. We don’t need to focus on good works as a way to justify our wrongdoings? Jesus’ work on the cross makes our morality a moot point in the conversation of heavenly “salvation.”
And good thing too. Because if he hadn’t we’d have missed the point. And that point is that God did not create us to follow moral codes. He created us to be in relationship with Him. He created us to love Him. And if we focus our efforts on what is “good” or “bad,” then we will have placed noble ideals like Morality and Philanthropy on the throne in God’s place. We will have made Jesus’ work on calvary vanity. We’d be saying the sacrifice on the cross is not good enough. And in so doing, we’d miss out on the reason we’re on this planet.
Make no mistake, God wants us to be good, but our goodness should flow out of the relationship we have with Him. It should flow out of the love we have for Him and his Son. If it doesn’t, if we get our priorities turned around and start trying to earn heaven with a 5 (or a 4 for that matter), I’m afraid God will simply reminds us, “Good is not good enough.” Grace is the name of the game. Accept it, and enjoy a relationship with God today. It’s what life is about.
What do you trust more, your record of goodness, or the cross of the Savior?
Latest posts by Antwuan Malone (see all)
- Courage in the Face of Persecution [sermon] - November 28, 2015
- 3 Strategies For Culture Change - October 28, 2015
- Four Lessons I’ve Learned From Serving In Young Adult Ministry - July 20, 2015