DEAR FATHER PAUL: What does the Bible say about the need for Christians to evaluate their personal standing with God from time to time? I know lots of “Christians” who haven’t darkened the doors of a church in decades, almost never pick up the Bible and rarely ever even think about helping someone less fortunate. It doesn’t seem to bother them. Are they OK with God? — Mary
DEAR MARY: Thank you for your question. It’s a good one, and very much in need of serious thought by each of us, me included. As I’ve said many times, I am not God. But I will tell you a little later what his word, the Bible, says on the subject of our need for regular, honest self-evaluation while there is still time. This need may well include some of the folks you mention.
The notion of being evaluated by others and also by ourselves is not new or strange to most of us, rather it is a regular experience.
We step on the scales and find that we weigh nine pounds more at the beginning of 2020 than we did at the start of 2019. This “evaluation” gets our attention big time and we rush to the gym to restart our forsaken workouts. Or, our boss calls us into her office and says something like, “when can you meet with me for your annual job performance evaluation?” Evaluations happen all the time.
So an “evaluation” should not be some unknown experience for any of us. We go to the dentist to get that nagging pain in a molar evaluated. If we are still in school, we regularly are evaluated by grades from our teachers. If we are investing for our retirement, we regularly evaluate how our investments are doing. Right?
Evaluations then, should not be some strange, dreaded experience to us. Evaluations happens every day. Nor is evaluation something that we should fear. The main question about evaluations is, “are we, in addition to the routine things like I just mentioned, ALSO regularly evaluating the really, REALLY most important things in life? Do we evaluate the things that have “eternal” significance? That’s where God and HIS evaluation of us comes in.
I am, of course, suggesting the beginning of an answer to your question, Mary. Here it is:
Every person, without exception, should be regularly asking themselves, and God, this simple question. “How ARE things, right now, today between you and me, God?” Period … end of question.
Now, the only ones who can answer that question, again, are us and God. To answer you plainly, Mary, the Bible clearly mandates that each of us, but especially Christians, SELF evaluate ourselves regularly by asking ourselves this simple yet profound question, then giving and getting answers that are truthful and honest, sometimes even painful.
The Bible addresses this in lots of places. But the Bible passage I like best on the subject is found in II Corinthians 13:5 (New International Version): “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; Test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you … unless, of course, you fail the test?” Note the words … “examine yourselves.” Could that be any plainer?
Bottom line — Because God loves us so much, he strongly encourages us to honestly look inwardly (examine ourselves) on a regular basis in order to identify areas where we fall short of his love. And, as the really wise people say, “Is there any better time than now?”
Do you have a question? Send it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org (follow the instructions) and I will try to answer your question in The Citizen.
[Father Paul Massey is Canon to the Bishop of the Mid-South Diocese of The International Communion of the Charismatic Episcopal Church. He is assigned to Christ The King Church in Sharpsburg, Georgia and is a chaplain for the Peachtree City, Georgia Police Department.]