Tuesday, November 22, 2016

An Embarrassing Failure

Jesus’ words:  “And this is the way to have eternal life – to know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, the one you sent to earth.” John 17:3

I am grateful for the Bible memorization classes I had to be part of at Bingham Academy.  Every morning before classes commenced we gathered to memorize hundreds of Bible verses and entire chapters; even the books of Ephesians and Philippians.  Charts were on the walls showing our achievements. At the end of the school year prizes would be given to those with the highest achievements.  I loved memorizing verses and usually won prizes. They rolled off my tongue like water off a duck’s back. You might conclude that I was really knowledgeable about the Bible but the grade on my report card in fourth grade in the subject called “Bible” showed a glaring F. Memorizing was one thing; understanding the Bible was another! Knowing God had not yet started either. That F, signifying “failure”, was serious. Would I be withheld permission to pass into fifth grade? To further complicate the matter I am a twin. Would John and I go into separate classes? I don’t know what discussions went on behind the scene but I was allowed to pass into grade 5.  My missionary parents must have been shocked that their daughter failed Bible.

 My Muslim friend was studying for the written driver's test. She found samples of tests with their answers and memorized the answers. The only problem was she didn’t fully understand the questions and answers. She could read the questions fairly well even though many words were still not understood at all.  It enabled her to get the gist of the question and then memorized the answer. I tried to help her to see it was important to not only memorize but to understand what she was supposed to learn.  Memorizing answers for a test may help us pass, but it cannot turn us into a good driver, responsible citizen, or skilled medical practitioner.

Many of my non-Arabic speaking Muslim friends are proud of the fact that they read or memorize the Qur’an in Arabic even though they cannot understand it.  They say their required memorized nimaz prayers in Arabic even though they don’t understand what they are saying. They may try to convince themselves that memorizing is what counts, not the understanding.  My Arab friends are more fortunate linguistically because they are able to understand the Qur’an and their memorized nimaz.

There is earthly value in memorizing. Certainly it is good exercise for our brains. We also tend to retain information we have memorized. But memorizing without understanding is not of much value. If we cannot understand then we also cannot apply the memorizing to every day living.  As impressive as memorizing the Bible or the  Qur’an is it cannot qualify us to enter heaven or make us better people.   It cannot bring us merit before God nor make us right with Him. It can be helpful to have a conversation with our Muslim friends about memorizing versus really knowing God. Like I experienced as a child, we can achieve memorizing and even win prizes but fail to know God!

Dear heavenly Father, help my Muslim friends to want to know You.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.