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The Teacher Is The Chief Of Sinners

“Do not pay attention to every word people say, or you may hear your servant cursing you— for you know in your heart that many times you yourself have cursed others.”

-Ecclesiastes 7:21-22

What often vexes us about our students is not that they sin, but that they are caught sinning. Worse still, that we sometimes catch them.

When we catch them, we are reminded that we, the catchers, can also get caught, though this thought is rarely sufficient to keep us from continuing to sin. They lie, we lie. They check their phones in the bathroom, we check our phones in the bathroom. They lose their homework, we lose their homework. They forget we scheduled a test, we forget we scheduled a test. The boys flirt with the girls, we flirt with our coworkers. They complain about the administration, we complain about the administration. Oh, the things I could teach you about pride, about lust, about anger, were I not so afraid for my pride!

We chastise or humiliate the guilty because they are caught. We are angry they have been so careless, so sloppy as to force us to deal with their sin, speak with them about their sin. Their sins are our sins, and we hate to preach little sermons to them because we know how effective those sermons could be. What every minister, priest, teacher and counselor knows is this: the sins we are best suited and most capable of preaching against are the sins we regularly commit, for we can preach against those sins in a psychologically realistic way. Were we to preach against those sins in a psychologically realistic way, the accused would know their accusers were no better, simply more cunning, simply more powerful, simply not (yet) caught. Thus the rigmarole of confronting the sinner is often a silly, stunted, blunted, beat-around-the-bush charade where we nebulously, vaguely, abstractedly try to make the guilty make guilty noises without implicating ourselves.

How much happier would we be if we acknowledged that all sin is separation from God, all sin is misery, all sin is death, and that our students suffer as we suffer? How much happier would we be if we acknowledged to our students, “I am not in charge because I am good”? How much happier would we be if we treated the school day as an opportunity to work out our salvation with fear and trembling, not finger wagging?

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