Mrs. Blackstock, my fourth-grade teacher, once took our class out to the playground to play softball. She divided us into two teams and assigned each student to a position. I was the catcher. Charlie, the hulking schoolyard bully, took his turn at the plate. He struck out. In frustration (and probably embarrassment), he swung his bat at me.
No strikeout this time. If my belly had been a baseball, he would have hit a grandslam.
Mrs. Blackstock marched us to the office, explained what happened, and left us with the principal. The principal spoke with each of us separately.
When the principal met with me, she said she was going to punish both of us by taking away our lunch-hour recess for a week. I protested; I hadn’t hit Charlie (I was scared of him), I hadn’t even provoked him (I was scared of him), so why was I also being punished? It wasn’t fair!
The principal explained a new campaign to stop a recent upsurge in playground brawls: from now on she would punish both participants in the hopes that schoolyard fighting would cease.
My grade-school principal punished me for being hit by a bat, swung by a bully.
We are born with an instinctive desire for justice. Little children cry, “No fair!” before they can walk. The sign of societal maturity begins when cultures establish courts, institutions we can appeal to for just judgments.
But what recourse do we have when the institutions themselves are the perpetrators? To whom do we appeal when the appellate judges form a kangaroo court? It was the Nazi government that murdered Jews, and it was the Stalin regime that slaughtered its challengers.
Few of us face fascist administrations, but many of us encounter petty, bureaucratic tyrants. These are the nameless systems which refuse to “raise the poor from the dust and lift the needy from the ashes.” Like caricature-despots, they wield power without appeal. In the last month I’ve talked with:
- A friend’s mother who was fired from a Christian company by the HR department for doing exactly what her boss demanded (she didn’t know there was bad blood between her boss and the HR representative);
- A pastor who was removed from his pastorate by a denominational committee, with no explanation given and no opportunity for appeal;
- A woman whose child was taken from her by a guardian-ad-litem who had befriended her former husband.
What Do We Do?
Of course, Jesus may have faced the most infamous trial when his initial judges were in league with false witnesses, and when his final appeal, Pilate, chose political expediency over justice. And Jesus took that injustice for us, we who are never as innocent as we wish to believe.
Fortunately for me, Mrs. Blackstock believed in righteous justice, and she never withheld my lunch privileges. Unfortunately for her, the principal was livid.
Mrs Blackstock missed several days of school the following week. When she returned, I asked if she had been sick. She pulled me aside and asked me to keep a secret. The principal, she said, had suspended her for disobeying the principal’s judgment; Mrs. Blackstock’s suspension would be a lesson for other teachers.
I kept my word to Mrs. Blackstock, and I never told a soul. Not even my parents. Until today.
After Mrs. Blackstock’s took my judgment, I affectionately re-named her, Mrs. Back-stop. I don’t know if she ever heard me use her new nickname. But if she did, I hope she knew it was out of fondness. I hoped that she knew, that I knew,
That Mrs. Back-stop had my back.
P. S. God does not simply save us and leave us alone. He saves us for a purpose: to know him, to enter into a divine dialogue with the one who loves us. He wants us to learn to recognize his voice when we drive to work, wait in line, and engage in prayer.
To grow in that divine dialogue, please watch the video bel0w (What are we saved for?), and buy a copy of Hearing God in Conversation.
[button href=”https://www.amazon.com/Hearing-God-Conversation-Recognize-Everywhere/dp/0825444241/ref=cm_cr_arp_d_product_top?ie=UTF8″ primary=”true” centered=”false” newwindow=”true”]Buy Now[/button]