Two words that struck fear in the heart of most grammar school students back in my day. Long before computers, we would be called to the blackboard to solve problems of long division with the teacher reminding us, “Don’t forget to show your work.”
So, there you were, standing before an empty board with your book in one hand, chalk in the other, about to make a fool of yourself in front of everyone if you came up with the wrong answer.
It wasn’t that I couldn’t do the problems.
It was the paralyzing fear of doing something wrong in front of everyone that always got to me.
Lately, I think Christians should be forced to go to the blackboard. We could do with a reminder about division. You can’t turn on the news without hearing how people are ‘taking sides’ over everything from website comments to politics. We are so inter-connected that we are determining our values from popularity in opinion rather than facts.
If there is one thing that you can’t toy around with, it’s mathematics.
You either get the right answer, or you don’t. You show your work and you pass or fail by your answers. The numbers that have to be divided go into each other giving you either a whole number answer, or one with a number with remainders. It is one, or the other.
Facing down an audience of people with different ideas and experience is daunting because we all bring our own baggage with us to the blackboard. We are scared, or we don’t care. Numbers are friends, or devilish fiends guaranteed to provide us with sleepless nights.
When you think about it, we are as divided in our attitudes toward finding answers in life as we are with which we approach mathematics.
Paul reminds of this in Corinthians 1:10-13-Now I beseech you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you; but that ye be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment.For it hath been declared unto me of you, my brethren, by them which are of the house of Chloe, that there are contentions among you. Now this I say, that every one of you saith, I am of Paul; and I of Apollos; and I of Cephas; and I of Christ. Is Christ divided? was Paul crucified for you? or were ye baptized in the name of Paul?
Paul had completed his mission of preaching the good news of Jesus Christ and left. He was catalyst and evangelist. As that, he couldn’t stick around to minister to all those he converted in their daily walk. Others had to take on that burden. But with that burden of ministry came dissension in the ranks…as it does in churches and denominations even today.
Instead of becoming ‘easy’ in approaching our blackboards, knowing we have the solution in front of us, we drive ourselves off a cliff with arguments on how we ‘show our work’. People begin choosing sides. Instead of coming together as one, we divide.
An easy illustration of this can be shown by the simple question asked when one enters a hospital. “Religion?”
Most list a denomination.
We are not a product of a denomination. That is ‘showing your work’ rather than simple offering the proper solution to the problem given.
We are, and should be, first and foremost: Christian.
WE ARE FOLLOWERS OF JESUS CHRIST. While we recognize many different ‘remainders’ of Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, Catholic, etc., we swear our allegiance to indisputable truth…that Jesus was God’s son who came to die for our sins and offered Himself as the perfect sacrifice, acceptable to God so that we need no longer be unacceptable to stand in His God’s presence and be judged by Christ’s sacrifical blood offering.
In this math problem, Jesus is our answer. While there may be ‘remainders’ in viewpoints of baptism (Do we sprinkle or immerse?), or what form we approach the symbolic ‘bread of life’ instituted in Holy Communion (matzoh or white bread), all of these are relatively unimportant in the scheme of the larger picture.
One of God’s greatest gifts in providing us with His Son Jesus was the blanket he provided to unite us. In Christ, we have all languages, all colors, all eye shapes, all cultures, and all different peoples worshipping at the feet of the Son of God together. In Him, we lose our fear of deciphering math in front of others–for by Him we are united in our goal of solving life’s problems TOGETHER rather than separately.
We need no longer fear life’s blackboard for believers in Christ are assured that we are all in this together with Him….