We must teach with grace because of grace, and by grace. What kind of grace? Scandalous grace! Grace defined is the awarding of merit where merit is not deserved. The grace to teach is the realization that we have sinned, and we do not measure up to God’s standards (Romans 3:23). Yet, God’s grace abounds and saves us despite our waywardness! Because God has given us grace, God expects us to practice grace (Matthew 10:8). This grace perspective should not be limited or boxed to the personal realms; it should permeate our lives and all of the social spaces that we engage in.
The grace to teach is the understanding that most students will not hit the mark, they will not keep the standards, and most will not even appreciate your efforts to better their learning. How should we deal with them? Should we give them the grades they deserve? Let them reap what they sow? Or should we fail and forget them, and instead spend time on those that value our efforts more?
Let me shake things up a bit – how does God deal with us? How does God teach us when we mess up, and fail to achieve his standards? I know that some of you are saying, does that mean that we should compromise standards, lower our expectations, or allow them to bypass requirements? God forbid (Romans 6:15)! The allowance of grace is not a license to sin!
On the contrary, to teach with grace allows the teacher to answer comfortably the question: Was there anything more I could have done in order to enable this student to succeed in my class? How far did God have to search for us? To the depths of hell! How much did God have to give up because of us? Jesus, the only begotten Son of God, was sacrificed for us. By including Judas Iscariot as his disciple, Jesus was informing all of us that we must pursue every student for the kingdom, even those that we suspect will not respond to our efforts.
It is always easy to practice grace with good students—students whose infractions are few, rare, and far in between. However, the grace to teach does not allow us to become transactional in our approach to teaching. Transactional teaching is tit-for-tat teaching. Transactional teaching justifies spending minimal efforts in our teaching and giving of ourselves according to their efforts in our classes. Indeed, most of us justify our transactional nature in teaching by using our class sizes, the fickleness of our students, and our finite resources and abilities among other reasons. However, God has given us grace that is sufficient for all our needs especially for the “student in the flesh” (2 Corinthians 12:7-10). We are not to teach in our own strength, wisdom, and abilities. We are to teach in the power of the Holy Spirit because “His strength is made perfect in [our] weakness for when [we] are weak, then [we] are strong.”
The grace to teach allows the teaching process to be transformational – our purpose is to restore God’s image in those that are within our sphere of influence (True Education, p. 11). Though the teaching methodologies and subject matter will certainly bear an impression on our students, none of these changes will be long-lasting nor can it restore God’s image in them.
Grace transforms not only the students but us teachers! For when we see the impact of grace on our students, we also believe more in the power of grace. I have seen what grace can do in the life of students. I have seen its power in the life of sinners. I have seen its power in my life. It is with grace, because of grace, and by grace, that transformation begins and endures! Let us practice the grace to teach.