As I prepared for this week’s Bible study, I started thinking about writing the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) in the context of 2012. Who would you cast in the roles of the characters?
At first I considered using celebrities as the prodigal son. I immediately thought of ones in the news for repeated rehab visits, for public intoxication, for cheating on their spouses, or for a number of other “prodigal” behaviors. If those celebrities would repent and change their ways, they could have a big impact on their fans. They’re in a natural position to speak to many people about how grace and forgiveness are a part of their lives.
Then, I started thinking about placing more average people in the roles. Maybe the father figure is played by a teacher, and the two brothers are students. On one hand, there is the student who always does their homework, participates in class, and genuinely seems interested in learning. In other words, every teacher’s dream-student. On the other hand, there is the student who makes the teacher want to pull out all of their hair and scream. The student rarely does their homework, skips school, and lies about going to the bathroom while instead making out with their boyfriend. Just imagine the possible transformation.
As a teacher, I am looking at this scenario from a different perspective than I ever have before. Yes, I would love to see a student become a diligent and hard working individual. The prodigal story could stop there, and it would be a noteworthy transformation. It’s true that a big part of my job is helping students learn important information and skills that will help them later in life. If that’s all I did though, I don’t think it would be enough. Maybe I’m optimistic or naïve enough to still think I can make a positive impact on my students’ lives, beyond what will show up on a pencil and paper test.
Now, let me leave all the teachers (including myself) with a couple questions to consider: What part does grace play in a classroom? What part should it play?