Monday, October 25, 2004

How to Know When the System is Broken

I watched without him knowing. He was probably eight or nine years old, the loudest of a loud group of kids his own age. Maybe 20 minutes ago he went up on the platform at "children's church" and recited the memory verse: "Show proper respect to everyone" (1 Peter 2:17). For his effort, he received a candy bar.

The visiting child seated next to him had not memorized the memory verse -- did not even know there was a memory verse -- so that kid didn't get anything.

Now, I watched as the candy bar wielding boy stole someone else's candy bar, told a lie to cover it up and kicked another boy in an area that should never be kicked. I called him over and asked, "How did you manage to get two candy bars?"

"I won them," he lied.

"You won both of them?"

"Well, I won this one."

"What about that one?"

"Oh," he said slowly -- thinking. "This one belongs to my friend over there. I'm playing a joke on him."

"I see. And what did you have to do to win the first one?"

"I had to say the memory verse."

"Which memory verse?"

"Today's memory verse."

"Oh, yeah. Help me remember. What's today's memory verse?"

"Ummm...I can't remember."

"It's hanging around your neck," I reminded him of the craft he had just spent 20 minutes making.

He looked sideways, conspiratorially, and whispered, "I didn't even memorize it before. It was up on the screens, and they didn't know it. I just went up there and read it."

"Can you read it to me now?"

"Sure, 'Show proper respect to everyone' (1 Peter 2:17)."

"Great job. Say, what's the word respect mean?"

"I don't know. Probably something like worship or good manners or something. Wait! Does it mean obey?"

"Congratulations on your candy bar."