It is that time of the year again, time for school to begin and time for me to prepare for the upcoming semester. I sit here in front of my computer and stare at my syllabi… reading… rereading… …wondering: have I included everything? Did I leave anything out? It is stressful for me- making sure all of the bases are covered. You see many years ago I was a young debate coach at a high school and was hosting a LARGE debate and forensics tournament. The faculty didn’t want me to host the competition there because…well…as you may know, debaters and forensics students have a reputation of behaving badly. I had to beg my fellow faculty to allow me to use their classrooms for the tournament. I assured them all would be fine. I promised I would be responsible for any damages. I carefully worded the LONG list of rules for the competition and knowing the student’s reputations, and even asked the Athletic/Activity Director to be on site to deal with any issues…and of course…as you might have guessed….something happened. The word got out that a LARGE (300+ lb) student had stood on a table in a classroom and fell through- breaking the table and leaving a large hole in the middle of it. I was furious. The table he destroyed was one of the faculty who, of course, was the hardest to convince to allow me to use his room. I immediately went to the student’s coach and told him that he would have to pay for a replacement. The coach nonchalantly said: “You didn’t say he COULDN’T stand on the table,” as he chewed on the snacks I provided in the coaches lounge and his student stood there smirking at me. I turned to the AD (who had accompanied me to confront the coach) and…nothing… crickets. So, I took the table from my room to replace the broken one, because I didn’t say he COULDN’T dance..yep you read it right…DANCE on top of the particle board table…..seriously.
So, after that I would sweat the beginning of the year as I tried to include EVERY possible problem/scenario that might arise. But, each and every semester, there was something new and the usual excuse: “You didn’t say I COULDN’T…” swing from the rafters, phone a friend for exam answers, use their cell phones to cheat, etc. And my syllabi grew longer…and longer… and I then learned that it was so long that they just didn’t read the rules…so I got the same excuses…sigh.
But, you probably understand how ridiculous this is, right? But, I hope also see the spiritual similarity here too, right? I hear it all the time: but God didn’t EXPLICITLY say “DON’T” or “I COULDN’T”… to which I reply….: God didn’t say: DON’T shoot up cocaine….or DON’T smoke marijuana…or DON’T steal HER PURSE. So, why are we having this conversation???? Why are we looking for the “out?” or looking for the specific lists of “don’ts” when there are so many lists of “do’s” that cover the don’ts?:I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service. Romans 12: 1
…I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Ephesians 4:1
Whatever happens, conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. Phil 1:27a…. live a life worthy of the Lord and please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, Colossians 1:10.
I could go on and on of the list of DO’s …but hopefully we realize the list of DON’Ts are pretty clear too:
The works of the flesh: “I say then: For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders,[d] drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Gal 5: 16-21
“[they were] filled with all unrighteousness, sexual immorality, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, evil-mindedness; they are whisperers, backbiters, haters of God, violent, proud, boasters, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, unforgiving, unmerciful; who, knowing the righteous judgment of God, that those who practice such things are deserving of death, not only do the same but also approve of those who practice them.” Romans 1:29-31.
“Abstain from every form of evil.” I Thessalonians 5:22.
There was a time when I worried about what I DIDN’T say, but not anymore. I realized that the students who are concerned with what I didn’t say are missing the point, and just looking to justify their bad behaviors and poor decision rather than just following what I tell them to DO. My Lord helped me realize that when He said: “Not everyone that says to me Lord, Lord shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father which is in heaven.” Matthew 7:21…no excuses…no “but you didn’t say I couldn’t”…He meant- just do what I tell you…no matter how hard…no matter how much I wish it wasn’t…not looking for an excuse…just do what He says. He’s pretty clear, wouldn’t you say? I don’t think “but you didn’t say I COULDN’T “ will work on Him either, do you?
Tracy is a Christian (Acts 2:38) who strives to serve her Father and Savior,her husband, brothers and sisters, and others according to Colossians 3: 22-24. She fails to often, but is humbled by her Father's love, grace and patience. toward her.