by Andrew Cartwright
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends”. –John 15:13
THE TEACHER WAS FURIOUS – someone had stolen James Warner’s lunch again – for the third time! And now, the class shifted uneasily in their seats before his stern gaze, replaying in their minds their own recent conduct in case they might be called out for some or other transgression too. The class had been warned and the rules had been made quite clear – punishment would be swift for anyone caught breaking them.
“Six cuts for the one who owns up now,” said the teacher. “If not, it’s grounds for expulsion”. His piercing gaze scanned the sea of nervous faces. But the teacher already knew who the culprit was – he had happened to pass by the classroom during a break and noticed a lone figure, stealthily opening a school bag that was not his own.
The sound of a single chair scraping slowly backwards pierced the tension in the air as Max Logan stood reluctantly to his feet. He began his “walk of shame” to the front of the class. “Why did you do it?” the teacher asked, already brandishing an angry cane in his right hand. “I was hungry,” stammered Max, “my father is always drunk and there’s no…” Max couldn’t continue his mumbled confession. He began sobbing as the floodgates of years of abuse gave way. He leaned forward against the desk for the impending lashing – his gaunt frame looking like it would collapse at any moment. The teacher felt awful, but rules were rules. Every soul in the place knew very well no misdemeanor would go unpunished. The teacher drew back his arm to inflict the first painful stroke of the cane.
“STOP!” someone in the class shouted. It was James Warner, the boy whose lunch had been stolen. “I’LL TAKE HIS PLACE,” he continued, jumping up from his seat. “What?” said the teacher, startled by this request. “Well… I suppose there’s nothing in the rules which prevents it,” the teacher agreed. He turned to Max, “you’re free to go. Don’t do it again!” he warned. James replaced Max at the desk in the front. “This can’t be happening”, many were thinking, “teacher will surely dismiss it with a warning?” But as they looked on, the first blow bit deep into James’ skin. Then another and another. 1-2-3-4-5-6. The class winced at the sound of every blow.
James never cried out, although the pain was being etched deeper on his face with every vengeful stroke. Finally, after what seemed like an eternity, it wasfinished. The teacher had not held back on the severity of the punishment at all. James drew himself slowly back to his full height. He steadied and composed himself somewhat, and began the long journey back to his seat.
“Why… did you do that?” choked the teacher, unable to hide His own tears now.
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