The Professor’s Lesson On Grace

So I am currently enrolled in a very difficult class on the book of Romans. The professor who leads the class is one of the wisest men I have ever had the pleasure of knowing, but he is also one of the most hardened and difficult professors I have ever learned under. For the sake of keeping his privacy, and so as not to potentially ruin anything for possible future students, he shall be referred to in this post as “The Professor.”

The Professor has an amazing ability that I cannot fully explain in that he can be the most difficult person to please, and yet he still manages to create a bond with people that makes them seek his approval. I’ve had difficult professors in the past, and most of the time I can say “screw that guy” and walk away, but this isn’t the case with The Professor. I have only cried twice in the past four years, and one of those moments was when The Professor (in a private meeting) told me that he didn’t think I was cut out to be a minister. Had any of my other professors told me this I’d have gotten upset at them and written them off as a nut job that didn’t know what they were talking about, but not The Professor. At the time I valued his opinion of me so much that I believed him and almost gave up. Thankfully I decided not to quit and instead it became my mission to prove him wrong. Years later I wonder if The Professor told me this, not because he believed it, but because he knew I would work twice as hard to prove him wrong. In any case, The Professor was and is a mental and spiritual titan in my life. He is not only one of the smartest men I know, but he is also one of the most Christian men I have ever come across. He is stern, but loving. He is both wise and humble. He will break you and then build you up stronger than before, and I sincerely hope that everyone meets someone like The Professor at some point in their life.

So what is the point of all this you may be asking? Well, last week The Professor gave us our first test in the class on Romans and I spent a great deal of time preparing for it. I really wanted to impress The Professor and earn his approval, plus I knew this test was going to be very difficult if it was anything like the other classes I had taken with him. The test consisted of only two questions and so I gave the most in-depth detailed answers I could think of. I spent nearly an hour on each question, and when I was done only two other people were still working. I thought about waiting and pretending to keep writing so I could be the impressive last one to turn their test in, but I decided against that.

The next class meeting went off like a normal lecture would, but at the very end The Professor ended by saying “Regarding your tests, I have given you all a 100. Class Dismissed.”

Everyone in the class just sat there confused. I knew without a doubt that not everyone in this class had made a perfect score. I don’t think it is really even possible to make a perfect score with The Professor. If it is possible I have never met the man who could pull it off. In all my years with the man I never once made above an 80% grade on anything. I thought perhaps he gave us a grade on a curve, but that seemed very much unlike The Professor. He was not a man who gave a perfect score to anything less than perfection. As I headed out the door I passed The Professor and wished him a good day, for which he thanked me and sent me on my way. I was so terribly confused.

Today we received our tests back, which was very unusual considering it hadn’t even been a week since we took the tests. I assumed that since we all got perfect marks he probably didn’t take the time to grade us. To my surprise when I went up and claimed my paper it had his writing all over it. He wrote detailed notes about how I omitted this, was too brief on that, spent too much time here, and failed to understand that. My paper was bleeding with mistakes, but to my relief on the last page my final grade was an 87. This excited me so much I gave an audible sigh of relief. I was confused about many things, but none of it mattered because I had made an 87 on a test issued by The Professor and that was amazing! I was very proud of myself and, being lost in the moment, I had forgotten anything about his words regarding giving us all 100 grades.

The point was raised as to whether these grades were ours or whether The Professor had given us all 100’s as he had said earlier. I cannot directly quote The Professor, but I will do my best to capture the essence of his words. He said:

“These are the marks you earned. Each and every one of you had the potential to make a perfect score and none of you did. Some failed more than others, but none of you were good enough. Perhaps some of you were good enough by university standards, but you all failed the standard I wanted for you. I have shown you grace, but not without great cost to myself. I spent hours grading each of your papers in great detail, I stayed up late and woke up vert early even though I knew from the beginning that I would give you grace. The sacrifice I made will hopefully make it real to you that grace is not cheap and that failure regardless of size is not without consequences. I did this out of love and hopefully some of you will understand why.”

The professor turned and began to write on the white board behind him, but after a minute he stopped and turned back around to face his audience again and he said this:

“What’s really funny is that out of all of you, only four or five took the time to thank me.”

I didn’t take a single note the rest of the lecture. I had failed to thank The Professor.

Having spent years under The Professor’s guidance I can say that nothing he does is without meaning. While I can never climb into The Professor’s mind I have a good guess as to what he was trying to get across.

I was proud of my 87 grade, it was quite honestly the best work I had ever put into a test. I had the potential for a 100, but when the challenge is so hard 87 is good enough right?

This is how most people approach sin. We are proud of ourselves for being “good enough” and while we all fail miserably at being good all the time, some of us think we are passing. Compared to the world’s standards maybe we are excelling. Perhaps we have earned the noble status of being a “good person.” No one is perfect, but that’s ok right?

The fact is while I might have passed the university standards I failed to meet the standard that The Professor planned for me. This is not unlike my spiritual life. While I may be good by the world’s standards I still fail to meet the standard that God had planned for my life. Like God, The Professor knew this would happen and decided that he would give us grace and mercy, but not without great cost to himself. Both God and The Professor had no need to sacrifice of themselves for the sake of us. If left alone we would get exactly what we deserve and no one would be unjust for leaving us as we stood. In the end though, sacrifices were made and grace and mercy undeserved were given out freely regardless of how poorly we failed to earn it.

Who do you think was more relieved, I who got an 87, or one of the unsuspecting younger students who probably got a 40 or lower? So it was with Christ and the Gospels. It is those who are truly aware of their need for a savior that best understand who Christ is and what he has done. Though I cannot confirm this to be true, I fully believe that those four students who thanked The Professor were the ones who needed his grace the most.

That is what I believe The Professor wanted us to remember. We all find ourselves coming short of the standard, be it that we got a 99 or a 2. We all are in need of a savior, whether we are deep enough in need to admit that or not. God at great cost to himself gave us grace and mercy, undeserved. He made us 100’s though we did nothing to deserve it. After all this, how few of us actually take the time to thank God for what he has done. How few of us really take the time to show gratitude for the one who gave all to pay our price.

Don’t be one of the many who never take the time to thank God.

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