Thursday, September 1, 2016

He Took My Lickin'

Since Labor Day signals the start of a new school year in many parts of our country, I thought you might enjoy a true school story I heard in church when I was young.

I attended eighth grade in a two-room school in Pelican, located on Chichagof Island in Southeast Alaska about half-way between Juneau and Sitka, accessible only by boat or float plane. A fishing and cannery town, Pelican had a population of about one hundred people in the winter. Grades K-3 occupied one room and 4-8 in the other, taught by a husband and wife team, who lived about the primary classroom.

Pelican, Alaska, in 1953. Photo taken by my uncle C. Byron Personeus
Perhaps that's why I could relate to this true account that took place in an old-fashioned, one-room school in Kentucky and never forgot it. But I think there's an even more important reason why.

Old Pelican Schoolhouse that now serves as City Hall
One by one, several teachers had been driven off by the students' rebelliousness in that old Kentucky school. A new teacher was due to arrive that day.

Jim, a 17-year-old third grader, bragged to the other boys. "We'll run this one off before sundown if he gets bossy."

In their first session, the new teacher said, "If we are going to have a good school, we need to have good rules."

A few of the boys snickered, but they sat up in surprise when the teacher added, ""But I'm not going to make the rules. You are."

One by one, the students volunteered what they thought would be fair rules and set fair penalties for each offense--five to ten hard swats with a large wooden paddle.

The teacher proved to be warm and friendly, firm but fair, and all went well for several weeks. Then one morning, the teacher solemnly told the class that someone had stolen Jim's lunch. To uphold his authority, he knew he had to carry out the penalty, but his heart was heavy.

Deep sobs broke the silence. Little John, timid and frail and loved by all, confessed his guilt. Everyone knew John was poor and often hungry. But the law had been broken, and the penalty must be paid.

As the teacher lifted the paddle, Jim cried out, "Stop! It was my lunch, and I forgive him!"

"That's kind of you, Jim, but you made the rule, and we all agreed on the penalty. I'm sorry, but it must be carried out." He again raised the paddle.

Jim stepped forward. "Then I'll take his lickin'. I can take it better than he can."

With each painful swat Jim received, John felt his own guilt deeper and deeper. When it was over, the teacher wiped his eyes and put his arm around the two boys.

"Class, it was a wonderful thing Jim did. He was innocent, but he volunteered to take John's punishment. That reminds me of how Jesus, the sinless Son of God, voluntarily took our punishment when He died on the Cross for our sins. Jesus took our lickin'."
And that's why I have never forgotten this story. Not because it took placed in a one-room school, but because it illustrates so beautifully what Jesus did for us when He died in our place. He took my lickin'.

"All have sinned," Romans 3:23 tells us. And "the wages of sin is death," according to Romans 6:23. But while we were yet sinners, God in His great love and mercy provided His remedy. Christ, God's innocent Son, stepped down from heaven's glories, lived a sinless life, and died for us (Romans 5:8). Now, through Him, we have eternal life.

Every year as children go back to school, let's remember how Jesus took our lickin' and give Him our eternal thanks and gratitude.

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