Altar Call – Opelika-Auburn News
September 30, 2012
We owe our teachers a debt we can never repay
Teachers have made the news lately. The rowdy teachers on strike in Chicago did not resemble the public school teachers I admired as a boy. But the Chicago crisis did remind me how indebted all of us are to our teachers!
When we were helpless babies our parents began teaching us the rudimentary rules of living. We learned to speak by modeling the speech of our parents and siblings.
At age five or six we were put under the care of skilled school teachers. Some of us were deeply impacted by our first teachers. That was true for me. My first grade teacher was a remarkable woman who inspired in me a love for learning and an abiding respect for teachers. There is still a special place in my heart for Mrs. Oakley Melton who guided me through the first grade of elementary school.
Many other teachers helped to shape my Christian worldview. I owe them a debt I can never repay. They taught me by “precept and example.” They practiced with their lives the faith they taught with their lips. A few of them remain strong in my memory bank.
Si Mathison was the pastor who convinced me that I could have a personal relationship with Jesus. Until I met the man we called “Brother Si,” Jesus was a historical figure like Abraham, Moses or Lincoln. Brother Si taught me that Jesus was alive and that I could talk to him. There was something captivating about Brother Si.
I soon decided I wanted to know Jesus like Brother Si knew him. I wanted to be an authentic disciple of Jesus like Brother Si was. The love of Jesus felt real because the love of my pastor was real. Years later I would realize that I fell in love with Jesus because Brother Si was in love with Jesus.
Stanley Jones, or “Brother Stanley,” became my next mentor – through his books and especially through his sharing of the gospel. His teaching was remarkably Christlike. He seemed to care deeply for people. He wanted them to find freedom and joy through surrender to Jesus. He made the ancient creed, “Jesus is Lord,” the password into a transformed life.
Elton Trueblood, the Quaker philosopher, was a gift of God to me as a friend and mentor. He taught the church at large, and he taught me, that “every Christian is a minister.” Elton was disciplined and gentle, devoted to Jesus, and uniquely gifted as a teacher of the faith. More than once he set my heart on fire as the Christ about whom he spoke came alive for me.
God used these three men, my teachers in the faith, to help me develop my own personal relationship with Jesus. He was real for them. And through them Jesus became real to me.
Kennon Callahan has been my mentor for the past 25 years. He helped me realize that the mission of the church is the mission of Christ. The purpose of the church is not to build and maintain buildings but to find and serve people in need, offering them hope, help, and healing in the name of Christ. As a pastor he helped me to move from a ministry of “commitment and challenge” to one of “compassion and community.”
Basically these wonderful teachers taught me to sit at the feet of the Master Teacher, Jesus Christ. As the living Christ he still teaches those who will sit at his feet. He walked the earth teaching in the First Century and, since his resurrection, has through the “Inner Voice” become the greatest teacher of the ages.
The people who first heard Jesus teach were astonished at “the authority” with which he spoke. He did not quote the great rabbis of the past. There was no need to do that for Jesus was God speaking! He was indeed the “Word” of God. His words were the authentic truth of almighty God. Little wonder people were astounded!
The rabbinic teachers of Jesus’ day did not want to share their authority with Jesus. They had“a good thing going” and did not want Jesus to upset their applecart. But when they tried to embarrass Jesus and turn the people against him, Jesus confounded them with his own questions. They were no match for the Master Teacher who often used these confrontations to teach truth about the kingdom of God.
Our world today is flooded with information and opinions. Hundreds of people want to be our teachers. They want us to buy their versions of truth and become disciples of their ways of thinking. We can become easily confused by the vast array of “teachers” who seek our allegiance. However, there is a solution, and that is to accept as our ultimate authority the Master Teacher, Jesus, and the gospels that contain his teachings.
Any “new” teaching must be tested by the teaching of Jesus. He is our authority for truth. Any teacher must be tested by how well his lifestyle compares to that of Jesus. Is a teacher’s proclamation authenticated by his own word and deed? It should be. If not, the teacher does not deserve to be heard or followed.
The longer I live the more I realize my need to sit at the feet of Jesus and allow his teaching to saturate my mind and heart. No other teacher is as worthy of my time and attention. Jesus is not only the Source of truth, he is the Truth. Anything that contradicts the teaching of Jesus is false.
The more my life is aligned to the teaching of Jesus, the greater my sense of fulfillment and joy. When he is my guide I have no fear of being lost for the Gentle Shepherd is leading me home. When I listen to Jesus, I hear God speaking! How wonderfully my teachers have served me! I owe them a debt I can never repay but I shall remain eternally grateful for their kind investment in me! + + +