Sunday, March 1, 2020

When to Extend Grace, and When to Mete Out Justice

"God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." James 4:6)

Image result for James 4:6

Unlike most people in the church circles that I mingle in, I have no problem watching Pastor Joel Olsteen. Earlier this week, he shared a sermon about going the extra distance for people who have wronged us, who have harmed us.

He also talked about extending grace to those who don't deserve it.

While listening to this sermon, I admitted to God out loud: "I don't want to let people off easy. There are people who have harmed me, and I simply do not want to let bad people get away with bad things which they have done to me."

I later recognized that this is an attitude which needs to change. This state of mind is something that He will change in me, however. It's not my job to change myself:

"But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18)

At any rate, I have been learning for the last two months that God loves it when I am honest with Him about my feelings, about my reservations, about my rank unwillingness to do certain things. He loves that we come to Him with our limitations!

"Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need." (Hebrews 4:16)

I then asked God to give me some guidance about this, because there are times when I had forgiven someone openly, only to witness those individuals engage in more shameful behavior towards me and others. I have often recognized that the most important aspect in our walk with others people is that God's peace must rule in our hearts as a judge, or as an umpire (Colossians 3:15). God does not want us leaning on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5-6), but walk in His Spirit (Galatians 5:16).

I was so pleased, so grateful to the Lord! He answered my prayer by drawing out to me to different scenarios from my former teaching career.

In 2010, I was a substitute teacher in the Centinela Valley Union High School District. It was one of the most difficult, most unpleasant experiences (at least when I was a long-term sub in Hawthorne and Lawndale high schools).

The Hawthorne High School students were pretty bad to me, except for 0 period and 2 period. In Fourth period, one kid was generally not that bad, Ricardo Galvez. But for the most part, the students loved tormenting me.

Then there was Lawndale High School. One student, Ivan Ordonez, was the worst. He loved torturing me, I guess. The school pretty much let students get away with anything, in large part because the deans were too cowardly to hold students accountable, and they would not allow administrators to drop the hammer on misbehaving students. The last day of my assignment at Lawndale High School, I remember how cool I was in the midst of everything in the classroom, and I sent out Ivan a third time without any regret.

Fastforward about ten months, and in came the next school year.

To Extend Grace

First, I was assigned to Lloyd High School, the continuation school for students who have received consistently failing marks. There, I saw Ivan Ordonez on my student roster for the day. I cannot tell you the panic that welled up within me. I was so distraught, I asked the secretary to cancel my assignment for the day. The secretary knew that I was often a capable substitute teacher, so he asked me what was going on. I told her about the abuse that I had endured from that one student, and she acquiesced to keep him out of the classroom for that period.

When I returned to my assigned classroom for the day, another student saw me and began provoking me: "You know that Ivan is here! Are you scared?!" He had this creepy grin on his face and everything. I didn't know what to think.

Then, then I saw Ivan come into the classroom next door. I don't know how else to explain it, but it's like the Spirit of God just caught me up, and I walked over to Ivan, asked him to step outside. He stood against the wall with his head held down. I then simply extended my right hand to shake his, and I said: "Ivan, I forgive you." He shook my hand, then returned peacefully to his seat.

What happened the next day was beyond amazing.

I was assigned to a larger class, and Ivan was going to be there. I never forgot that day. Calmly, he just walked up to me. Didn't flinch, didn't say a word. He had a calm smile on his face, and he shook my hand.

I just shivered with great joy that day. The last thing I remember asking him was "How's your Mom doing?"

This first example shows how extending graec is the right and righteous response. Ivan was deeply humbled, even pained by what he had done to me. I did not lay into him, nor did I harm him in any way. I did not seek to exact revenge of any kind.

Now, let's turn back to Hawthorne High School

To Mete Out Justice

I was a long-term substitute teacher at Hawthorne High School first. The original teacher who was selected for the assignment I covered had bailed on the school district. The school administrators interviewed seven candidates. I didn't make the cut, as I ended up somewhere in the middle. Let's face it--that high school was never going to select me. I could not control that class. Those students didn't listen to me, didn't respect me, and it was a waste of time to hope for any kind of development of respect to ensue. The students knew that I was not going to be in the classroom for the long haul, anyway.

Fast forward to September 2011, when I was covering classes on a day-to-day basis at Hawthorne High School. I was much more relaxed, much less tense. I was listening to Pastor Joseph Prince's sermons every day. My aspect had really changed, as I had learned in greater measure to Live the Let Go Life, because Jesus is My Life.

I was assigned to an art class, which was fun. I love to draw, and to get paid to watch a class and draw was a lot of fun, too. In one of those classes, Ricardo Galvez showed up. At first, I recognized him faintly, just by looking at him. Then he told me who he was, and that he was in the history class that I had covered.

Right then, he began mocking me. "Poor Mr. Schaper! We got you fired. We made you so mad."

He then briefly talked about how frustrated I was trying to get the class to get anything done.

Then all of a sudden, something just leapt up within me, and I roared at him:

"How dare you talk to me like?! I did not deserve to be treated with such direspect! You screwed yourselves! I wanted to teach, and you hurt yourselves!"

It was amazing! As soon as I shouted at him, Ricardo was taken aback, almost as though I had hit him. He was certainly blunted. Then he retreated to his seat, where he trembled while shrinking behind his desk. He then briefly smiled, trying to stifle his shame.

It was amazing! I couldn't figure out where that outrage came from, but it welled up within me and knocked the arrogance out of Galvez. From that day on, he never spoke to me again. He wouldn't even look at me when I was walking by him.

There, I meted out justice. There, the Spirit of God just moved within me and refused to let Galvez get away with dishonoring me.

When to do one, and when to do another

We extend grace to those who know that they are sorry, who are not proud, nor puffed up.

"God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble." (James 4:6)

Let us give grace to the humble. Ivan was humble. He did not make anything of himself. He received what I offered. Galvez. however, was arrogant, puffed up. He was making something of himself while shaming and mocking me. He got exactly what he deserved.

I neglected to mention that I (rightly) humiliated Galvez in front of all the other students in the class. He richly deserved that comeuppance. Shortly after I had reamed him out, he quietly admitted: "That felt good, didn't it?"

Yes! It did. Meting out justice to the arrogant is very gratifying.

Just as granting grace to the humble is very gratifying.

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