Without looking anything up, can you name all of the Ten Commandments? How about how many books there are in the Bible or when Pentecost took place? If the answer is no, then add one more entry to the list of reasons you should be glad that you don’t have to seek asylum from religious persecution. As a report published by the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Freedom of Religion or Belief (APPG) recently described, those seeking asylum in the UK because their Christian beliefs put their lives at risk in their home countries are frequently asked a series of “Bible trivia” questions like these to determine the authenticity of their faith.
While the report admits that the “assessment of religion based on asylum applications is complex and challenging due to the inherently internal and personal nature of religion and belief,” the group found that the current approach is fraught with problems. Even beyond the, at times, inane nature of the questions asked, those responsible for knowing the answers are often woefully unprepared to do so. Many of the government interviewers, for example, found the answers by which they determined whether or not an individual would have to return home to face persecution by simply looking them up on the internet. While Wikipedia and other such sites are great for many things, perhaps they shouldn’t be relied on in such weighty circumstances.
Translation has also been a common issue for many of the asylum seekers. Hamid Delrouz, for example, is an Iranian Christian convert who felt the need to answer the interviewer’s questions in broken English rather than use his interpreter because the latter wasn’t familiar with biblical terms like the Book of Psalms and Jeremiah. Others have encountered similar experiences where the Christian asylum seeker feared that his interpreter either “did not have knowledge of [his] beliefs or did not personally agree with them.”
Lastly, even if the individual does have all the right responses, that doesn’t guarantee legitimate faith. After all, it’s not hard to learn the answers to such questions and, considering the lengths most asylum seekers have already gone to in order to reach a potentially safe country, studying up on “Bible trivia” would seem like a good use of their travel time.
In the end, the issue comes down to the fact that a person’s relationship with God is not a matter of having the right answers so much as having the right heart. While that isn’t going to help England with their asylum process, perhaps it can help some of us today. Tragically, there are a great many people who think themselves Christians because they can answer just about any Bible trivia question you want to throw their way, but whose hearts do not reflect the kind of relationship with God that they profess. Perhaps they grew up going to church, listening to sermons, or even singing in the choir, but left each week with full heads and empty hearts.
Such people often understandably find their relationship with God unsatisfying but can’t quite figure out why. Many even get to the point that they accept their current spiritual state as what such a relationship is just supposed to be like. Even when Scripture clearly teaches that God wants so much more for our walk with him (John 10:10), it can be far easier to think that’s just not the case for you than to seriously consider whether or not such a relationship exists in the first place.
While only God and the individual can ultimately know the status of a person’s salvation, if you feel like you or someone you know might fit the above description, it’s worth spending some time in prayer to ask God for wisdom and discernment with how to approach the subject.
As Charles Spurgeon once said, “It is not my aim to introduce doubts and fears into your mind; no, but I do hope self-examination may help drive them away. It is not security, but false security, which we would kill; not confidence but false confidence, which we would overthrow; not peace, but false peace, which we would destroy.”
If you are not completely certain about the status of your relationship with Christ, there is no more important discussion you could have today than to ask God to make that status clear beyond a shadow of a doubt. And even if you are certain of that relationship, being saved doesn’t mean that we will always live like it. All of us, saved and unsaved, are capable of living in the manner described above—emphasizing the state of our minds over that of our hearts. That’s not the kind of abundant life Jesus died to give.
So whatever your eternal status is today, know that God doesn’t want us to settle for anything less than a vibrant and life-defining daily walk with Christ. If that’s not how you would describe your relationship with God, know that the problem is not with him but also that he wants to help you address whatever it may be. Will you let him?