It all started when one of my high school students (I’ll call him Isaac) chose not to pay attention to the lesson because he was catching up on work that should have already been completed. As I was moving around the room helping students with the assignment, he quickly became frustrated because I wouldn’t come over to him to reteach the entire lesson to him. Isaac’s frustration boiled over as he angrily gathered his belongings and stormed out of my room. I still had students in the room to teach, and I wasn’t about to chase after a student who clearly wasn’t in the mood to see things from another point of view.
The next day, I put a half sheet “Re-entry” form on a clipboard and handed it to him before he came in the room. It included questions like “what happened?” and “what could you have done differently?” and “how can you prevent this from happening again?” After being in the hallway for a bit, Isaac knocked on the door. It didn’t take long for me to notice that he still had the “teacher wasn’t doing her job” mentality. I told him I didn’t think he was ready to re-enter the room to which he replied something along the lines of “can’t we just forgive and forget?”
I have only God to thank for bringing to my mind the story of the woman caught in adultery (John 8:1-11). What does this have to do with a stubborn teenager? For those of you who don’t know the story, a woman is caught in adultery and is brought before Jesus by a group of religious men. According to the law, the penalty for this sin was to stone her. Jesus responds by saying, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.”(v.7) Realizing their guilt, all of the men gradually leave. Jesus, now alone with the woman, asks her if anyone condemns her. When she says there is no one, Jesus declares “Then neither do I condemn you. Go now and leave your life of sin.” (v.11)
Jesus extended grace. He chose forgiveness. BUT, he did not ignore her actions that led to the accusation in the first place. He declared forgiveness and also made a call to action. He sent her off calling her to leave her life of sin. God does not forgive us so that we can keep messing up (Paul says a lot about that in Romans!). We see through the story of this woman that forgiveness propels repentance (or turning away from sin).
I shared this story with Isaac, stressing the importance of changed behavior. I emphasized that I didn’t think less of him as a person, but I expected him to change his behavior.
Yes, God does remove our sins from us “as far as the east is from the west” (Psalm 103:12). Even still, from the story of the woman, we see that he desires that we walk away from our sin.