The Bible says in James 3;1, “Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.”
I so understand why James gave this warning. It takes courage to be a Bible teacher. As teachers, we have to be willing to be learners as well as teachers. We need to have the humility to ask, “Am I willing to make the life changes I’m expecting others to make in their lives? How can I grow in my walk with Christ in the specific area in which I’m teaching?” Then we have to have the determination and resolve to do it.
God has a way of challenging me about this specifically. Something will happen during the week, catching me on my blind side. Then I will start to study next week’s lesson. Suddenly, my life events and my lesson topic will connect like two giant puzzle pieces.
The high school Sunday School that I teach is studying the book of Psalms. Two weeks ago, we studied Psalm 139 that ends with “Search me O God, and know my heart . . .see if there is any offensive way in me and lead me in the way everlasting.” These verses have always made me uncomfortable. I know that if I pray that prayer, that is one prayer the Lord will definitely answer. He surely will, in short order, show me my “offensive ways.” And, God, I know you know me inside and out, but there’s some knowledge that I would just rather You keep to Yourself.
But I’m teaching these kids to pray this prayer. I would be a hypocrite if I wasn’t willing to pray it too. So last week, after Sunday School, I prayed the prayer.
Midweek, I had a misunderstanding with a contact. I couldn’t understand why she seemed reticent and confusing on some details she was giving me. I wrote an email to a mutual friend. In my email, I said I almost felt like I was being lied to and I was getting the run around. Guess what? Word got back to my contact of what I had said. She called me, flaming mad. She ought to have been. I had called her a liar. I deserved every single word she said to me. I had misjudged the situation terribly. She proceeded to give me details about the truth of the matter and my heart just broke. I had judged because I didn’t understand the situation. I didn’t need to know all the details she shared with me. I should have given her the benefit of the doubt. And, in my remorse, I realized that my hasty judgmental attitude is a weakness of mine.
Well if I can’t do it once, I’ve got to do it twice. Two days later, I had words with my husband. It boiled down to the same problem. I made hasty judgments about him without stopping to look at the entire situation. Now feeling a little bit beyond miserable, I turned to the next lesson in my curriculum. The topic? Ugh! Psalm 51, David’s famous Psalm where he repents of his sexual sin with Bathsheba. Does this mean I’ve got to repent too?
Because of my own failing that week, I was more open to catch the beautiful, deeper message of this Psalm which I had never realized before. David asked God not only for forgiveness. he also asked God to create a clean heart within him. It’s not enough to ask God for His forgiveness, then blithely go on our merry way. When we blow it, we have to be willing to look not just at the initial, one time sin, we have to be willing to evaluate the sin pattern. We then need to ask God to wipe out our bad attitudes, our “stinking thinking," that is causing us to keep on doing the same thing. We need to ask God for a heart transplant.
At least, that’s what I realized I needed to do before I could teach my high school students about repentance and forgiveness. In fact, I miserably concluded, I probably needed to tell them that I fail too and that I need God’s forgiveness just as much as they do. The good news is, God will forgive. He won’t just forgive either. He is there to help do better next time. We just have to ask. Like David, we'll feel better when we do, because a restored relationship with God Almighty is the very best of life.