Finding one to lead

“Kids don’t remember what you try to teach them.
They remember what you are.” – Jim Henson

It happened 50 years ago but that day in a college class is as fresh in my mind as if it happened yesterday.

That week was “Religious Emphasis Week” on our campus. I recall it was the custom at the denominational college to have chapel programs two days a week and by my senior year attendance was mandatory at one chapel program a week. For “Religious Emphasis Week” I think we had three chapel programs that week. That year we had a chemistry professor speaking. And yes, that was out of the ordinary. The professor had a doctorate not only in chemistry but also in the philosophy of science and the history and philosophy of religion. It was not uncommon for him to speak about religion in such settings as our “Religious Emphasis Week.”

In the course of his talks, it became clear that his view of salvation was that of a universalist. It also became clear that this view was not going over well with the sizable population of ministerial students on campus.

On an afternoon after one of the speaker’s talks in chapel, I had a class taught by the chairman of our religion department. It was a large class and consisted entirely of ministerial students.

Before we ever got into our class topic for the day, a number of the students found it necessary to express their extreme displease with and hostility toward the chapel speaker. Our professor gave the students space and time to express themselves. As this went on for some time, the expressions became more and more hostile toward the visiting speaking. Some became insulting and called into question the right of the visiting speaker to call himself a Christian.

After a long while, our professor voiced his own response to the matter. Our professor said he did not agree with the visiting speaker’s stance on universal salvation. He said he wished he could, but his reading of Scripture did not lead them there.

Then our professor defended the man’s right to hold such an opinion and our need to respect him. Then came the punchline (at least it was so to me), speaking of our guest speaker my professor said, “… he has thought more about what he believes than many of you have or some ever will.”

Dare I say the lightbulb above my head turned on!

In class that day I saw a professor standing in front of us who was not only a scholar but someone who wanted us all to see how to be better persons, and was willing to give us an encouraging push. Would that some of his spirit rub off on me.

“We must love them both: those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject. For both have labored in search for their truth and both have helped us the in finding of our own.” – St. Thomas Aquinas

Can you think of someone who has so clearly modeled a behavior, an attitude or a character trait that you wanted that to be part of your character?

If so, who was it?

What did they model?

Did it take?

{ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est}

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