There are often unexpected implications with the way many Christians, both teachers and students, approach deadlines. In the previous post, I identified two dangerous implications for the way many Christian approach and apply deadlines, particularly within an education environment. In this post, I want to identify the final implication with how Christians interact with deadlines and clarify two possible misunderstandings.

3.  When deadlines have little to no meaning, we miss the unexpected beauty of grace.

Grace, by its very definition, is undeserved. This much we know. Yet, if a person is unworthy AND receives a gift, then this gift comes as an unexpected surprise and results in their delight.

One of my college professors defined grace simply as ” unexpected and undeserved.”

The more I reflect upon this definition the more I resonate with its truth. Grace, in all of its beauty, comes to those who need it most and deserve it least. Yet, it is this two-sided stroke of grace, generosity to the unworthy, which reveals the bewildering beauty on the canvas of grace.

When teachers do not hold students to the deadlines indicated, it not only reduces the teacher’ authority but it diminishes the beauty of grace by trampling on the unexpected nature of grace. Students grow to expect grace or something that masquerades as grace. The result is confusion related to the definition of grace and more tragically their own need (or lack thereof) for grace. Students are denied the opportunity to experience beautiful grace. The unexpected nature of grace is precisely due to the fact that the one who receives grace recognizes they shouldn’t receive it at all. When we expect grace, it’s no longer grace.

Teachers, it is time to hold up a high standard and hold your students to it! Students, it is time to accept the high task before us with perseverance and humility! By pursuing this route of authoritative words and diligence, we are setting ourselves up for times of great need. We will inevitably find that students cannot handle the demands from this course for any number of reasons. It is in these times when students least expect and deserve a break and feel the lowest about themselves for not meeting the high standard, they can be comforted by the unexpected, warm embrace of grace.

There are two possible misunderstandings in response to these posts and I want make sure they are addressed:

1. Teachers, there are circumstances where deadlines should be pushed back but this should not be confused with grace but it is love.

What I am not advocating for is a concrete approach to deadlines that negates the realities of sin’s effects and an unwillingness to adjust as necessary. If/when a student has surgery, has a death in the family, or experiences other traumatic events, this is a time to gently and lovingly respond to their particular situation. This will take time as you seek to understand the situation as you listen to the student, asses the student’s mental, emotional, and physical ability to do the assigned task, and ultimately how to best help this student as their teacher and member of God’s family. This is an opportunity to use your authority in love and demonstrate to students that you are more than a teacher. In those moments of great need, take the time to listen and love your brother or sister in Christ by using your power in a way that mirrors the personal care of our Sovereign God.

2. Students, you may ask for an extension but this does not minimize or negate a late penalty other than what is stated in the syllabus.

It is precisely because our teachers intend to follow-through on their word, that we may need to ask honestly for an extension and expect our teachers to reduce our grade.We expect our teachers to keep their word. This was clear from the beginning of the class and we failed to meet the deadline perhaps due to our own laziness, lack of priorities, or the difficulty of the assignment and available resources. We recognize that we missed the deadline (or will miss it) and deserve a penalty. Grace can now enter the room in all its beauty and we can feel the warm embrace given to us in our time of need.

Grace is meant to lift our eyes and hearts upward toward the bewildering beauty of God’s grace in Jesus Christ toward unworthy people who deserve and expect God’s justice. Yet, God generously provides forgiveness, peace, righteousness, and love.