I recently dealt with two students in a disciplinary situation after an incident on the playground (Mr. Register usually does that but he’s not yet mastered being in two places at once). We talked through what they’d done, what the consequences were, and how things could be handled differently next time. Before we got into all that though, the very first thing I told them was “I think it’s important for you to know that I’ve already forgiven you for what you’ve done.” That’s almost always the first thing I say to students when I’m dealing with discipline. Sometimes I wonder if that’s the right approach or not.
I’ve been thinking about school discipline and forgiveness in the context of our theme for this school year “Love First” based on Romans 5:8. When I reflect on whether I should “start with forgiveness” when I deal with student discipline, I think about Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” As people of faith, I think that “love first” can be equally defined as “forgive first”. That’s what Jesus Christ did on the cross – he “started with forgiveness” by sacrificing himself as the payment for our sins. And that was before we were sorry or repentant or even willing to acknowledge our own brokenness. I want students to experience grace and forgiveness first just like I have. God’s grace and mercy changed me forever and it’s the only thing that’s ever motivated me to turn from my sinful ways. Let’s all strive to love and forgive first whenever possible.