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Students’ Secret Stories

January 29, 2014

“Today we inspect what is universally known as the Sermon on the Mount, which many scholars consider to be the greatest message, sermon, and/or speech ever given,” I told the class.  “Whatever accolades mankind wishes to give it, there’s no doubting that if this message is applied to your life, the effect will be life-changing.”

Chris raised his hand.  “Is this what some people call the Beatitudes?”

I nodded.  “Yes, this is it.  I want you to zoom in on one particular part of the message from Jesus, because it has been highly misunderstood: ‘Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.’  This whole message talks about the results of a person giving his whole life over to Jesus the Messiah. It says here that the person should become meek.”

“That means weak, doesn’t it?” someone called out.

I waved my hand.  “If you think of it in today’s language it might come across that way, but the Greek word is praus and it has a whole ocean of meaning, lots of depths to it that help us understand what Christ is saying.”

I pointed toward to the Power Point screen. There was praus, large and clear.  The students typed onto their iPads and jotted notes in their Ready Reference journals.

“The best phrase I can use is ‘strength under control,’ ” I said.  “That’s a powerful definition.  The Ancient Greek texts used an example of a colt that had been tamed – it still had the toughness and energy, but could have that energy directed toward the right uses.  An unbroken colt was worthless.  It needed praus. The imagesame word was also used for the right dose of medicine – too strong of a dose and you could kill someone and too little would be too weak.”

“Like a thoroughbred at the Kentucky Derby,” said Gabrielle.  “They jump around before the race, all jittery, but when they get in the gate and then take off – wow!  The jockey keeps all that power in line, right?”

“You got it!” I replied.  “Jesus talks to a group of people who are emotionally charged up about fighting the Romans and screaming for vengeance.  Here comes Jesus, calm and assured, and His example even unto death will shock the world.  It still does today…”

It was at that point I looked across the room and saw the faces of students who were young Christians learning the need for this self-control.  Some of them had private battles where praus was so necessary day in and day out.

I saw Beth who carries the inner ache of a younger sister who is fighting cancer.  Beth goes home every evening with a workload of studies and chores yet has laid out her schedule to take time to massage her younger sister’s pain-stricken legs and sit by her in comfort each evening.

Callie has undergone yet another surgery to correct a childhood injury.  She has dealt with operation after operation in the years I have known her since kindergarten, yet she has never complained.  She has one of the top GPAs in her grade.

I saw Warren who is dealing who lost his father to an illness last year and is facing his first full school term without a dad to come home to.

Mark sat at the side of the room, taking notes quietly.  His father walked away from the marriage and family two years ago.

Allison’s parents abandoned her.  Both of them.  More than once she has told me of the deep, deep pain she has felt in being cast aside.  Yet she is one of my most energetic students.

Julie is adjusting to a new family life with a stepmother and new family.  Being a child of divorce, she dealt with years of bitterness and grief.  Now she is adapting to a whole new environment each day.

Rachel admitted to me that she is battling day to day with feelings of absolute hatred over a father who brazenly left the family.

I thought of Steven who arrived home every day after school to face an atheistic neighbor – a retired physicist – who would lean over the fence and verbally mock his Christian faith. Every day after school.  Steven was doing his best to be a quiet example of self-control.

Nathan, a potential scholarship-winning athlete,  is a student dealing with the sobering thought that he will probably never play a sport again after multiple surgeries over the past two years.  He hides the disappointment well, but on more than one occasion his grief has been evident.

Each student has a story where praus is needed.  Each story is unique, personal, and often painful.  Many a time they’ve admitted to me they want to scream out in frustration, lashing out against the confusion and hurt … but often they tell me that it comes down to a quiet and private time with Jesus that helps them through.

Helps them through one more day.




The application has never been more beautiful to me than when I see it in action in these students’ lives.

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