It is rather easy to pat ourselves on the back since we all need congratulations and encouragement and, at times, get too little of it from others. Let’s face it, few of us really seek to waste our lives and we are usually quite keen to know that we have made a difference. The only problem is that to approve of our own efforts that are achieved by our own standards ignores the blindspots that we all have. We need objective feedback which measures us by standards that are tried and true, standards accepted and affirmed by others.
For example, schools are compared objectively according to league tables. When some principals don’t like these, they argue for the value of educating the whole person but, really, what does a school fundamentally exist for?! Individual student performances are moderated at higher year levels to ensure objectivity. After all, who decides that a junior student’s ‘A’ grade in one subject is of the same standard as an ‘A’ in another (or even in another school)?
Churches can compare their performance and determine their growth-restricting obstacles, by means of the Natural Church Development survey which ascertains effectiveness according to eight key characteristics that have been tested in thousands of churches in many countries around the world. Those not agreeing with the results have been re-tested with different people only to get the same results and the outcomes have been valid irrespective of worship styles or cultural factors.
Individuals may find it harder to track their progress in life because the standards are difficult to objectify. Who decides what is right and wrong or even what is desirable? To recognise the Bible as a key yardstick is not exactly straightforward, since interpretations differ, but it is easier to accept the Bible’s worth if accepting the validity of objective truth. Without it, life is a free-for-all, but to acknowledge it needs a willingness to accept that it is really not contradicted by archaeology, history or science and that it is affirmed by ample personal testimony. Even those a little sceptical of some of its content usually appreciate the value of the Bible’s many time-honoured principles that have become common wisdom in their original or interpreted forms. But for the Bible to be appreciated as relevant wisdom for today it must be properly understood in its original context and not just read dismissively with twenty-first century eyes!