Ask any normal adult, "Who was your favorite teacher and describe why that teacher was your favorite." You will hear a description of a teacher whose lessons brought some life-changing insight into the life of their student. "I found myself able for the first time. . ." or, "I discovered I had a talent. . ." or, "I suddenly found a belief in my ability to change or to accomplish or to cope. . . "and other variations of self-discovery. In other words, the favorite teacher inspires the student to overcome.
When asked to describe this favorite teacher, you may be surprised to learn that the teacher is described as "stern," "a taskmaster" or "pleasant but not likely to accept excuses." A favorite teacher is someone who said over and over, "You can do it if you try harder. Don't make excuses. Try again." In other words, the difference between the poor teacher and the favorite is that a godly teacher placed the responsibility to learn on you. The poor teacher accepted your excuses and permitted you to blame your environment. The favorite teacher would not allow you to give up on yourself, but pressed you to heights of achievement that you previously thought out of reach. That's the method, but what is the source of this approach?
Blame Others and Give Up
First, we must grasp that the poor teacher is a humanist. Humanistic teachers constantly seek to "understand" the student. Once they observe a plausible excuse such as poor family background, poor self-esteem, bullying by other students, or even too much competition, the humanist, overflowing with sympathy, rushes to explain to the student why he is experiencing difficulty. The humanist theory is that once the student understands the reason for his difficulty, he can forgive himself and be happy in his failure. This psycho-babble enables the student to grow fond of his teacher and allows the humanist to turn sympathetically to bring "happiness" to the next troubled student.
Blame Yourself and Succeed
The godly teacher, on the other hand, says, "The trouble is with you." Perhaps not in those words, but that is in essence the thrust of his method. For example, generations of old-fashioned teachers used to tell people that they could overcome a bad habit or summon the strength to try again by saying, "Don't you have will power?"
Today's humanists say, "Oh, you're addicted to smoking, drinking, laziness, or sex. You're a victim. It's not your fault!" One method springs from the Bible; the other from the pit of hell. Our society too often accepts palliatives such as, "I feel your pain." Well-meaning do-gooders condemn the godly as "harsh," "stern," "cruel," or, most often, "unloving."
My Favorite Teacher
My favorite teacher was a 6'4" black sergeant named Cheek. I met him as a 19-year-old recruit at the crack of a cold and rainy dawn at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. I can still smell his terrible cigarette, coffee, and rotten-teeth breath. He leaned down and shouted, "McIntyre, don't give me any of your lame-brained excuses. You failed! You didn't make your objective. Hear me, boy! NO EXCUSE, SIR!" The last "no excuse, sir" was delivered with a roaring shout straight in my face, bad breath mixed together with a mist of putrid spittle. (Please understand that this recollection is accurate in content, but that the actual expletives have been deleted.) Although Sgt. Cheek would be surprised to learn it, his instruction was actually Biblical. He would be even more surprised to learn that Christ influenced my life through his screaming criticism. Military tradition has more in common with historical Christianity than a humanist preacher can know. I thank the Lord Jesus Christ for that foul-mouthed teacher. He was guided by the Holy Spirit on that cold South Carolina morning. I have often prayed that the Lord would save Sgt. Cheek's soul. It would be grand to shake his hand in heaven. I have faith that his breath and speech will be cleaner in heaven. His pedagogy, I suspect, however guided by military tradition, cannot be more true in heaven than on that day on earth.
Is the Lord a Prisoner?
Who's your favorite teacher, and why? Beware, think, or better yet, pray. Your answer may indicate whether you are at war with the God of the Bible. Rich folks have instinctively grasped this truth for years and sent their spoiled sons to military schools all over the world. In Florida, where I live, the local sheriffs have formed "boot camps" for juvenile delinquents. Their methods are straight out of covenant theology. Would to God they could add R. J. Rushdoony's robust Calvinism! It would lift their programs like an afterburner does a jet.
Good theology can boost the value of any parent's or teacher's ministry, but we must first recognize that our work may bring life or death to those under our authority. The word Christian was at first a term of derision. Our enemies spit the word Christian from clenched jaws as a curse. It means "little Christ." May God grant that all of us become little life-givers; it is our calling and our duty. "Thou shalt make alive."
- Ellsworth McIntyre