From the minute babies enter the world, they are being evaluated. Back in 1952, an anesthesiologist named Virginia Apgar invented a method to quickly summarize the health of newborn babies. The APGAR scale is determined by evaluating the newborn on five simple criteria on a scale from 0-2, then summing up the five values. The resulting APGAR score ranges from 0-10. The five criteria are summarized using words chosen to form an acronym (Appearance, Pulse, Grimace, Activity, Respiration).
Although the APGAR isn’t measuring performance per se, it does begin a long period of continuous measurements as a child progresses through school. Standardized tests measure academic performance, musical and athletic talents are constantly evaluated, and GPAs and ACTs/SATs determine whether or not a student will be accepted to college.
If you aren’t great at test-taking, you probably wish someone else could have taken that test for you, or that you could have traded test scores with that National Merit Finalist friend.
As we watch our youngest child begin the college entrance exam process, we note a change from when his sisters were tested only a few years ago. While they were required to have a photo ID with them to be admitted to the test, he actually had to have a photo on his admission ticket that would match up with his photo ID. I wondered why this change, but I’ve since learned that some students have actually paid other students to take these national college entrance tests for them.
This discovery did not surprise me, given the pressure of performing well in our society. If you aren’t great at test-taking, you probably wish someone else could have taken that test for you, or that you could have traded test scores with that National Merit Finalist friend. When it came to applying for your dream job, you probably wish you could have traded resumes with someone else, or embellished your own a bit.
The beauty of the Gospel is that, in God’s eyes, someone else did take the test for us. Though Jesus was tested at every point we will be tested, he passed every time, regardless of how painful and difficult it was. His sweating drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane proved how troubling it was for him to face the punishment we deserved, and yet he submitted himself to what was the only way you and I could be rescued and reconciled to our God.
Because of Jesus, we get the only acceptance that ultimately matters – acceptance into God’s family. Because of Jesus, we get the only identity that really matters – God’s forgiven and beloved children. Resting in the perfect performance of Jesus means we are freed from the anxiety and insecurity of having to prove ourselves, in any arena.
This freedom enables us to live fully into our callings, use our gifts, and take risks for God’s Kingdom, knowing we already have everything we need in Jesus. Because of his perfect performance, we are freed to do our work “as unto the Lord” from whom there is no condemnation. Freedom from trying to please other people and meet their expectations means we are free to work and rest, serve, love, and give, knowing that we already have our great reward – Jesus himself.