Mercy Me

February 3, 2021 by  
Filed under Christian Life, Family Focus

By Jane Thornton –

“Do the work or pay the consequences.” So reads one of my favorite parent e-mails. I wrote to let a father know that his child had blatantly refused to do an assignment. As per usual, I asked that he encourage his child to take advantage of the late work policy since this was a major project. This supportive dad let me know that he had no patience with a child who had the “gall” to tell me to my face that he had no intention of writing his paper. (Believe me, an atypical reaction.)

When I received this response, I practically shouted “Hallelujah!” at my desk. I hustled next door to report to my fellow teachers. We all said amen with great enthusiasm.

My daughter Meredith must write her own assignment—about a community issue. She came to me for advice. With this incident in the forefront of my mind, we discussed the prevalent tendency to make exceptions for and accept excuses from students. We bemoaned the state of education and our society where these overly merciful policies seem to be destroying our culture’s sense of responsibility.

Another incident from earlier in the year popped into my memory. Policy dictates that failed tests may be retaken, usually for a maximum of seventy, but that is left to teacher discretion. I had caught a girl cheating on her test—red-handed with crib notes.

Automatic zero, no retake.

However, the next morning during my prayer time, I became convicted that I needed to offer this student mercy. I pulled her aside and told her exactly that. Very appreciative, she promised to study and come to tutorials to take the makeup test.

She never showed up.

Indignation rumbled through my soul. Talk about nerve.

So, yesterday I mulled over these issues as I brushed my teeth. I planned arguments and logic to share with Meredith. Righteous frustration welled up in me again. A sense of entitlement is running rampant, not only in my high school’s students, but in our nation. Someone (me?) must develop the courage to stand firm. Let them suffer the consequences. Without consistent penalties, they’ll never learn to be dependable; they’ll never develop a work ethic.

As I continued my mental rant, I notice something in my eye in the mirror. Was that a splinter (mote)? Surely it wasn’t a plank (beam)? Do you recall Jesus’ story of the person trying to get a mote out of someone’s eye when he had a beam in his? (Matthew 7:3-5)

Don’t I know better than to commit the sins I commit? Yet I not only desire, but have come to expect, God’s mercy. God has given me and every sinner chance after chance after chance. And some of us tend to develop that sense of entitlement. We expect more chances—and He gives them. Does he feel the same frustration with me that I’ve been harping about? Praise God, that if He does, He sets it aside and keeps forgiving me! Thank God that his mercies are “new every morning” (Lamentations 3:23a NIV) and that He gave us the story of Hosea to demonstrate his continuing compassion.

Comment Prompt: Share stories where you’ve shown mercy or how you appreciate God’s mercy.

About Jane Thornton

Jane Thornton, English teacher, wife, and mom of two almost grown children, strives to break free of the automatic boring label attached to those roles. Her two suspense novels eagerly await a willing publisher, and her articles search for inspiration in the humor and tears of life.
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4 Responses to “Mercy Me”
  1. Hally Franz says:

    Jane, as a foremer educator myself, I was so with you on this… until, you took a turn to mention the splinter in your eye. You surprised me. You reminded me of the ones I have found myself under similar circumstances. Thank You!

  2. Julie Marx says:

    Good article, Jane. It’s definitely a fine line between learning responsibility and mercy. I’m God’s a good judge of both in my life.

  3. Lee Carver says:

    Jane, I’m a former teacher of biology and chemistry, and faced similar issues. A couple of them I’d like to re-decide differently. Mainly, if a child has a zero on any one major paper or test, there’s no way he/she will pass the quarter, and could fail the sememster or year. Make-ups keep the kid in the game. But that kid does have to show some work. It isn’t a freebie, and can’t be so good that the faithful students feel their faithfulness is unnecessary. Now to the second part: our sin/forgiveness relationship to God is not the same as our school performance. God forgives everything–perfect restart, no matter how many times, so long as we are sincere and working on our obedience. And we are in a class of one. No grades, no peers. So while you would continue to forgive a student for offense to yourself, you have to draw the line on academic performance.

  4. Lee Carver says:

    ‘Nuther thought, Jane: dear husband Darrel and I work with homeless women in Fort Worth through the program Room in the Inn. One of the ladies to whom we gave hospitality said that Fort Worth is TOO good to its homeless. She said some young women get angry with their parents, leave home, come to the homeless shelters and get free food, hang out for a few weeks, get pregnant, and enter the charity system forever. As Christians, we are commanded to be charitable. We MUST show God’s love to the poor, hungry, homeless …. But there is a certain percentage of those who are leeches and always will be. Only by God’s grace can I serve hot food to every one of them with a generous and caring smile of welcome. Honestly? My heart searches for those who need us for a brief interim while getting back on their feet.

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