Grading on a curve always seemed like legalized cheating when I was a child. In school we were held to an absolute standard and you sank or swam with your grade. Every now and then we’d hear about this strange practice of curving your grade but it seemed like a strange custom from a primitive culture in some remote part of the world. Soon enough the practice would become as common as standing in line to buy coffee.
If curving the grade was a frequent occurrence in the past it has become an essential feature of the academic life. It’s no longer a matter of if the professor will curve but how. Often students will raise this question on the first day to find out the professor’s particular style of curving. It isn’t a corrective measure used sparingly but a routine part of massaging the numbers to make them look better.
You wonder why they haven’t already ditched grades and moved to a percentile scale where you’re just graded against other students in the class. That’s what curving really is. You’re being compared to everyone else rather than against a uniform standard. Most people seem to think this way when they judge themselves in spiritual terms.
For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.
For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law.
James 2: 10-11
The gospel offends people so much because it directly challenges the universal belief that we are just fine the way we are, no need for improvement. If you measure up to your own standards then you’re simply lying to yourself and your standards are worthless. You are “curving” the moral grade far enough so that you can pass the test.
When you have an encounter with the living God in all His holiness all the excuses fall apart and you can’t help but realize that you are tainted and corrupt. Isaiah said as much when he saw the Lord sitting on His throne (Isaiah 6). Peter knew it when Jesus told him to cast the net on the other side of the boat (Luke 5). You cannot have such an experience and continue to believe the lie that you are righteous.
When you face God on His judgment seat you will either appeal to your righteousness or the righteousness of Christ. Only the latter will suffice to avert the wrath of God. No one will be able to claim ignorance because no one will have an excuse. And I can certainly guarantee you that no one will be asking God how He will curve the grade.