George Bowers Sr.: A lesson from second grade

George Bowers Sr.

George Bowers Sr.

Labor Day has come and gone and all the children are back to school for another year of education and growth. Pencils are being sharpened, projects are being assigned, and books are being read. What do you remember from your days in school?

One story that I remember occurred when I was in second grade. One of my best teachers, Mrs. May, had put us in book groups and we were intently reading around our circles. In the midst of our enthusiasm for education, a few of my classmates thought it would be the perfect opportunity to break and throw crayons at their friends in other groups. And so they did. Clandestinely, of course, when the teacher’s back was turned so as not to get caught. I’m sure the entertainment deepened our learning experience and enhanced our retention.

Since Mrs. May was nearing the end of her lengthy career, we were all certain she couldn’t see what was going on. Except she did. A little while later, she called about eight of us out into the hallway for a private summit. She explained in no uncertain terms that these actions were inexcusable and that we would have to visit with Mr. Bowers, our school principal, who fortunately was no known relation. She completed the necessary paperwork and dispatched us from the annex to the main office.

I was terrified. Whereas some of the others were already hardened criminals, I had no record and had never been to the office for anything other than to deliver messages. I knew not what fate awaited me, but I feared what soon would come.

To make matters worse, I really and truly was innocent…this time. Although I was entertained by the extracurricular activities, I did not participate in either the breaking or the throwing of these elementary mainstays. I had been too close, however, to others who did and found myself on the way to the big house while some of the guilty were going scot-free.

Since I had no previous record, I was released on my own recognizance after a stern warning by Mr. Bowers. I was relieved that I wouldn’t face the dreaded “three whacks” I had heard so much about.

Although there were plenty of other occasions where I should have been caught and sentenced, this was not one of them and I felt very unjustly treated. But looking back on this experience has helped me to realize in some small way how Jesus must have felt taking the rap for my sin. When He went to the cross, He carried all of my wickedness when He Himself was totally innocent. While I protested and looked for a way out, Jesus quietly carried my cross and took my punishment.

My offenses were much greater and my certain punishment much more severe than anything I faced in the office that day, yet Jesus stepped forward and volunteered to take it all. Because of this, I can go scot-free and enjoy the benefits of guilt-free living while looking forward to an eternity of perfect bliss.

My experience in second grade was a good reality lesson of what Jesus has done for me and for every other student in my second grade class, for he paid for all their sins too. And for those of everyone else at Woodstock Elementary as well as every other educational institution before or since. In fact, he has taken the whacks for every human being from the highly educated to the completely illiterate. But unlike my involuntary substitution in second grade, we each must accept Jesus’ payment for our offenses. We do that by admitting that we have been “throwing crayons” and worse, and by asking God to accept Jesus’ punishment in place of our own. Since he sent him for this very reason, He is anxious for us to do this so that we can have a restored relationship with him. This September, let this back to school story motivate you to receive Jesus’ payment for your sin if you haven’t already. And if you have, be sure to thank him for this great gift. In Jesus, George

George Bowers Sr. is the senior pastor of Antioch Church of the Brethren in Woodstock and the author of seven books including his latest book of poetry, “Holy Verses.” He can be reached through or

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