Believe it or not, I can count on one hand the times I've cheated to get an advantage over someone else. I remember letting my eyes range free a couple times in elementary school to look at someone else's paper on a test. I also recall feeling badly after one exam I took during my freshman year in college when I accidentally saw (but then purposely used) one answer to a tough multiple-choice question on the paper belonging to the person in front of me.
In sports, apart from occasionally "faking" the taking of a charge in basketball ("acting" might be a better phrase – I never went down unless I got hit), in baseball I never scuffed up a pitch, threw a spitball, or pine-tarred a bat too high. For the most part, I was a pretty good kid whose mostly average test scores and physical abilities gave him little reason to try ridiculously harder than he should to achieve/maintain some sort of academic or athletic perfection – I had neither.
Well, this pretty good, mostly average kid about met his match (and almost gave in) to an incredibly strong temptation to cheat on his Christ & Salvation final exam today. By God's grace, I didn't, but I was dumbfounded as to how very much I wanted to. It was scary.
While I can't really go into detail as to the content of the test, suffice it to say the reason I wanted to cheat was because I felt I owed it to myself because I had studied – not as much as some guys, but plenty for me. So, when I was asked to define a particular past Christological heresy, build a case against it from the Scriptures, present a proper doctrinal understanding, and then make application for a modern-day congregation, I couldn't believe that, after all the studying I did, I could not for the life of me remember the heresy's definition.
And that was bad, since correctly answering the question required correctly defining the term. And not correctly defining the term was going to cost me at least 20% of my exam grade.
Only having three hours to take the exam (and needing every precious minute when it was said and done), I skipped the question and finished the rest of the test, doing okay on most of it (though there was one other section about which I had no clue or time, so I let it go).
But then, with just fifteen minutes to go, I came back to the first question, stared at it, and racked my brain trying to remember the definition I so desperately needed. And that's when the temptation got really bad. My mind fell into a trance of sorts, and all I could think about was how to get the answer without getting caught.
I knew I couldn't pull a book out of my bag as my classmates would notice; however, as I was sitting in the back row and typing the exam on a laptop (like most of the others in my class), I could easily have pulled up my notes right there on the screen or even jumped to Wikipedia for a basic answer to get me going in the right direction. No one would have ever noticed.
After about five minutes of mental gymnastics trying to figure out both how and if I was going to do any of this, I read the last part of the exam at the bottom of the last page. It said:
"Write and sign your own honor statement."
Since I still couldn't remember the definition I needed to the first question, I went ahead and wrote out an honor statement, attaching a digital file of my signature at the bottom. It read:
"As much as I wanted to on the first two sections, I did not cheat by looking anything up on the Internet or in my computer files (except for my digital signature below) while taking any of this exam. By God’s grace, I was/am honest."
It was when I saw my name come up that I snapped out of my cheater trance. I came up with what I thought was the definition I needed (though in checking my notes afterward, it wasn't right, so don't think this story is going to end with a pretty little bow on top), typed a few bullet points out with proof texts, cobbled together a quick paragraph to try to explain a better doctrinal position, and then blitzed a sentence or two of application.
And I'm sure I got it wrong, but that's okay. It's better to miss the definition of a heresy than miss the definition of who God, by his grace, has redeemed you to be. Thank you, Jesus.