What do you think I am, a Saint?

The Sunday school teachers at Liberty Baptist were having an argument … er … a … no, a discussion about unruly kids. Mrs. Ketts was of the opinion that any behavior short of dangerous was acceptable, while Mr. Radi wanted more discipline.

”You must try to understand, Mr. Radi, American kids are not like kids in India.”

“I’ve noticed. They are disrespectful and ignorant. I have never seen such behavior among teenagers before. And these kids are supposed to be Christian.”

“Mr. Radi, you haven’t been here long. … I mean, in the United States. Being a Christian has nothing to do with it. Perhaps Christians in India are better behaved because everyone is better behaved.”

”No, Christians in India are better behaved because Christians in India are Christian.”

“What’s that supposed to mean?”

“Mrs. Ketts, be honest with me. How many of the kids in your class do you think are really born again?”

She looked down at the table and sat silently. After a pause during which a person could have gotten up, poured a cup of coffee and returned to his seat, she looked up and said, “If you keep thinking like that, you won’t fit in here.”

Now it was Mr. Radi who was silent. He couldn’t figure out what she meant. Was there a rule about questioning someone’s salvation?

Just then the pastor came in. “Sorry I’m late. What did I miss?”

“Mr. Radi just said our teenagers don’t act like Christians.”

“Oh, well, I guess that’s why we need you Mr. Radi–so you can teach them how to act like Christians.”

“I’m afraid I cannot take the place of the Holy Spirit. Most of the kids in my class show no sign of being born again.”

“Oh? Is this a new doctrine from India? Is there some foolproof way of knowing who is or isn’t a Christian?”

This conversation illustrates the typical, American evangelical attitude toward salvation and behavior. When church kids come back from Bible camp or the sanctuary altar having “given their life to Jesus,” we hope for the best and brace for the worse. Our low expectations are consistent with a theology that sees salvation as merely a state of mind, not a supernatural indwelling of the Holy Spirit.