Chapter Four


Yesterday I had a wonderful conversation about teachers. The effect they can have for good or not on each of our lives. The memories being shared were great memories. Powerful memories. Teachers whose names we remembered after all these years.

I want to relay two. Because teachers get a bad press so much of the time. Despite teachers being pretty good at putting up a defence of their craft. On one side we have the receivers of education and teaching – us. On the other we have the givers of education and teaching – them. And because we are all involved, we are all experts one way or another. All of us have a view. All of us know first hand.

One related a young pupil gifted in maths, yet with a great curiosity for science. Along the way this pupil discovered a wondrous thing. And this pupil desired to be the owner of this wondrous item. Because equipped with this item – a great vista of discoveries opened up – an enchantment of discovery. This pupil had a powerful desire for a book of universal litmus paper. Those ordinary strips of paper when dipped in “stuff” told you so much about the stuff. Magical paper strips.

So after one science lesson the pupil approached the teacher to purchase this item. Convinced a simple transaction would bring about ownership. And downcast was his face when the teacher said no transaction was possible. Yet even in the pupil’s misery, the teacher prevailed upon the pupil to carry a heavy pile of workbooks to the staff room. With a heavy heart the pupil complied.

The teacher thanked the pupil, again sympathising, that he understood the sorrow of his pupil. Yet he was only able to thank the pupil for carrying this load … with the gift of a book of universal litmus paper strips. And did. There and then. Outside the staff room.

This pupil grew as a child to an adult. And rather than pursue a life gifted with a talent/love for maths – pursued a career as a teacher – of science – of chemistry. All because of that one teacher, that one gift, years before.

The second related how as a young pupil, they had a severe disability with a particular subject. No matter how much time, energy and work they did – the subject remained beyond their comprehension. This pupil’s teacher always made it her watchword that should any pupil in the classroom not understand anything, they were to raise their hand and she would make sure one-to-one time happened sufficient to clarify. She was a busy teacher as many hands were raised. And she worked one-on-one with many in that classroom. Maybe not so special. Maybe just a “good teacher.” So why this memory?

And as the tale continued, this pupil relayed how they could not find it in themselves to raise their own hand and admit their own confusion. To raise one hand was to publicly admit confusion. To invite humiliation from the pupil’s peers, the pupil’s own fragile ego, the trauma of the consequence of the simple raising of one small hand in admission of ignorance. It would be a hand raised again and again and again. And as the tale continued, this pupils eyes shone, their voice softened.

For this pupil had a teacher who never – ever – insisted the pupil raise their hand. Never once in the entire time this teacher taught this pupil. The teacher simply moved to whoever had a hand raised, and in passing this terrified pupil would say “I will be back in a minute.” And always returned. Always explained to the pupil whatever confusion they could not admit. Every time. And not once was a hand raised. There never was the consequence of perceived trauma. The consequence of a simple raising of one small frightened hand. And this pupil? Their grades rose. Never complete understanding, never loving the subject. Yet competent and safe. And remembering this teacher for ever.

Jesus was a teacher.

The Monologue on The Mount was teaching. Crowds flocked to hear His teaching. Crowds flocked to Jesus. The coming Messiah. The fulfilment of prophecy. The embodiment of salvation for this chosen people. Stepping into a melting pot political, national, historical, cultural, and religious. A war-torn country. An outpost of the empire. A persecuted people filled with rage and resignation.

Quite a classroom to teach. A hotch-potch of mixed abilities. A quagmire of passion and emotion. An empty vessel waiting this moment with hope. Would this be the one. The one of The One?

And He gave them rules.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. Therefore anyone who sets aside one of the least of these commands and teaches others accordingly will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

We have seen, and do see, a time when the church’s teaching is becoming less and less relevant. The church doors are wide open, yet the crowds are staying away.

We have many many teachers. Ministers, pastors, clerics. A whole industry has been built from that one teacher. A multi-million pound corporate industry we call “the church” in all it shapes and forms. A body sucking in all those millions the dimishing faithful donate. Yet the crowds stay away.

Jesus came with rules. The church comes with the same rules. Jesus taught. The church also teaches. Jesus loved. We too love as He did.

Jesus lives within us as the Spirit. We who believe, we who follow – we are His Temple. He lives within each of us. Much more than He lived within the crowds. We are the faithful+, less fishermen more professional, less ignorant more educated … more of everything. We have had two thousand years to know everything so much better. To be so much better. To become better teachers. Great Loving Teachers. To teach so much better those same rules … the same Law … we have been gifted and we are gifted!

Yet where are the crowds? Where are the hungry? Where are the needy? Where are the lost?

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; …

If we are Followers of the Way (and we are), if He resides within us (and He does), if we are each His temple (and He says it is so), if we have Grace Freely Given (and we do), if He died for us and we are saved (as we most surely are), if we are free – so much more free than the dusty – expectant – uneducated – unknowing – unspirit – unfilled-bible-common-folk …

What is it that He was … He is … when He taught all those rules …

That we are not?

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3 thoughts on “Chapter Four

  1. Very thoughtful post, Paul. And as simply as I can put it, we are not relationship. We are not compassion. We are not welcoming. We are not the eyes and heart of grace and mercy. We are not love.

    • Susan – I was asked once why I believed in God. And the only thought I could muster – the only answer He prompted – was about “having a bestest friend ever – one who never let me down” and said so.

      I hear a lot about verses and rules and salvation. And so much less about relationship. And wonder are we all so spiritually “British” that we avoid any emotional vulnerability – or do we really not consider this element that important. And if not – why not?

      I am married to a real live kicking and spitting and loving person. Not a book.

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