Evidently, God thinks the U.H. needs regular reminders about the gospel. I’m pretty sure I agree with Him, which is one reason why I’m grateful for disciplinary office visits from students.
It’s strange, I know, but it’s true. These visits are rarely enjoyable (although sometimes, I admit, they’re hilarious!), but I do not dread them, and I generally find my follow-up conversation with parents to be marked by gratitude and like-mindedness. But I think these office visits benefit me perhaps more than they benefit the students. Why is this? In these conversations, I get to rehearse the gospel. I get to speak truth to the a student on the other side of the office, as well as to my own heart.
Martyn Lloyd-Jones was described as having preached the gospel for four decades in the same place. As a young man, I thought that was strange. Why would an evangelistic message be necessary every week for decades? What would you say once the hearer actually got saved?
Now years later I realize that a study of the gospel offers profound insight into the nature of God and that it cements principles by which the faithful Christian must live.
Take a student who willfully sinned against his teacher in some outrageous fashion, say, blurting out repeatedly in his gleeful enthusiasm for Latin declensions without deigning to raise his hand. Scandalous, right? If he does this enough, he winds up talking it over with me. In my office, we’ll talk about the obvious stuff, like self-control, and what it’d be like if everyone blurted out all the time, and how enjoyable that would not be. But what else?
We also talk about the nature of sin, and how it destroys fellowship. That blurting out cannot now be undone, but it can be forgiven. And back in the classroom is a flawed and forgiven teacher who is eager to restore to fellowship and to class a flawed and repentant student. So the ticket back to class (for the student who is ready to do so) is an apology, replete with the profoundly-Christian request for forgiveness from the teacher (or any human object of the sin). And every time (no, really), the teacher is glad to welcome back the student to class.
Is that not a fantastic picture of what God does with us? The teachers and I will tell the students as much. Just as sin hinders fellowship with God, so it hinders fellowship amongst humans. That can only really be fixed with forgiveness, which must be sought and given. God does it with us; we should do it with one another.
I’ll often tell the students that this is how the Christian life works, and that they’d better get used to it, because they’ll be sinning against people (and they’ll be sinned against!) for the rest of their lives…though hopefully with decreasing frequency as they become more complete in Christ.
When you’re the sinner, pray for the Spirit’s conviction of sin; confess your sin before you’re confronted, own it, repent, and ask for forgiveness.
When you’re sinned against, remember how patient God is with you; love fellowship; be ready to forgive and restore your brother to full fellowship when he repents.
And enjoy the sweet fellowship and the picture of what God does for us.
Risus est bellum!