October 12, 2009

The Good Teacher 
Sarah Jennings, Crosswalk.com Family Editor

And as he was setting out on his journey, a man ran up and knelt before him, and asked him, "Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?" And Jesus said to him, "Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: `Do not kill, Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Do not defraud, Honor your father and mother.'" And he said to him, "Teacher, all these I have observed from my youth." And Jesus looking upon him loved him, and said to him, "You lack one thing; go, sell what you have, and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." At that saying his countenance fell, and he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions. Mark 10:17-30

Autumn is still young, but it has already been filled to the brim with teacher-student relationships. I'm taking two classes and teaching another. Each class is a reminder to me of how difficult it is to be a good teacher… and a good student.

Take my anatomy and physiology class, for example. This particular teacher is gifted at what you might call "tough love." He challenges his students.  

This past Saturday was particularly tough. We began class with a difficult exam. The exam was followed by 6 hours of class lecturing and participation. Our professor likes to interact with his students, and if you don't know the answer to a question, you're not off the hook. He'll spend 10 minutes pulling the answer out of you. Most students panic when he calls their name.

As "bad" as this teacher may sound, a closer look reveals the negativity lies more with the students. Amid the grumbling, angst, and exasperation over this professor's teaching style, you can find one lost learning opportunity after another.

Case in point: many students drop his class, but those who complete his class are often some of the most knowledgeable students at the school. And he isn't mean. He tries to instill confidence in his students, and he gives you more study guides, clues, and outright answers to test questions than any other teacher I've known.

He's fond of giving this spiel over and over again:

"I am not here to make you feel bad. I am here to help you. You might not like me for it, but I know which methods work for mastering this material. Just trust me, do what I say, and you'll walk out of here with an A or a B."

Sometimes I feel Jesus, the Good Teacher, says something very similar to us. "Just trust me. I am here to help you. I am going to give you all the answers you need!" Yet even with countless pages of holy scripture to turn to and help from the Holy Spirit, we struggle to be God's students.

We can see the difficulties of the teacher-student relationship in the opening scriptures. Jesus answers this man's questions. But the man doesn't like what Jesus says and walks away.

Had the young man stayed, he would have inherited more treasures and wisdom than he could ever have acquired on his own. But he didn't stick around long enough. Like so many students in my class, he leaves before the learning has really begun.

How often do we feel like God has taken on the role of the impossible professor, expecting us to live up to standards we feel are unfair? How tempting is it to take out parts of the Bible that make us uncomfortable or don't make sense to us? Perhaps you even know someone who has walked away from the faith because of a hard teaching.

If you're struggling to embrace a teaching of the faith, I encourage you to stick around a little longer and reap the rewards of perseverance. Trust the Good Teacher with the answers you seek.

Intersecting Faith & Life: Instructing the ignorant is a spiritual work of mercy. If you know someone who is confused about a particular aspect of the Christian faith, help them find clarity.

Further Reading

Hebrews 4:12-13