When the rubber hits the road
“Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.” Colossians 3:13
Over the last few weeks, I have participated in several discussions around ‘grace’. It was Luther’s understanding of this theological concept and the application of it to our lives as Christians that was of particular focus during the Reformation of the Church.
In the ‘Lutheran Lens’ section of Growing deep, grace is highlighted as one of our core foundational beliefs, ‘Lutheran schools and early childhood services are communities where grace abounds. While recognising the brokenness of humanity, they reflect the unconditional love of the Father, revealed through the saving work of his Son, Jesus’.
In my many years as a principal, conversations around grace were held often – especially in the behaviour management space. However, an incident occurred in one of the schools where I was, which made me pause and consider how well we were invested in understanding and practising grace in ‘real’ life.
A single mother with four children from different fathers were members of our community. Life was hard on a number of levels for the family and they received support from the school as well as several school families who looked out for them. One morning while the school was at worship, mum stole the wallet of one of her children’s teachers. The credit card use, left a trail around the local suburbs (also followed by the CCTV cameras).
How would you have responded to this? What do you think should have happened? These questions (and answers) divided the staff. The immediate reaction from a number of staff was to call for the termination of the enrolment of the family for this criminal act. They deserved punishment for crimes committed.
Needless to say, the police were involved and responded within that sphere. However, as a school what was to be our reaction to this? After much counsel from my peers and lots of prayers, I understood that it required a grace response. The following created a lot of discussion with all staff and negative reaction from some staff.
My first thought was for the children; the school was an island for them as they dealt with many issues on the home front – their enrolment stood. It certainly wasn’t the fault of the children that this occurred. Mum: there are consequences when one disrupts the order of the community. While she received forgiveness from me for this act, she needed to realise that there were consequences involved. She was banned from entering the school grounds for a term and there were several medical and counselling arrangements put in place.
Grace is tough to truly practise. What surprised me more than anything was the law-oriented stance taken by some of the staff. There was no scope for forgiveness, no scope to extend and practise grace – something which we believe is fundamental to our faith, to our schools. When the rubber truly hit the road, our common understanding around grace was found wanting.
We came through this, unfortunately not unscathed.
I challenge you to consider, how do you truly extend grace? How superficial are your responses; how deep and far-reaching are they? What would Jesus do?
Director: School Leadership & Development