The Highest "F"

A religion prof who is a colleague of mine recently used a marvelous method to teach the concept of Grace to his class on the Reformation. Just after the first major assignment, he entered the room wearing a dour expression and announced that only one student had received an A. The rest earned grades in a range from F to B. Then he turned to the student who earned the A and asked, "Would you be willing to take an F if everyone else in the class could have an A?"

He knew the student well. She was a young woman named Amy. For a moment or so, Amy thought it over and then said, "Yes, I would." Immediately a debate broke out about whether this was fair. Those who had earned Bs were slightly unnerved that their effort was now regarded on equal terms to those who earned lesser grades.

"But it's not really about your effort, is it?" my colleague pointed out. "You didn't earn an A. Amy gave it to you." The ensuing debate was a great lead-in to the theological debates of the Reformation.

I heard about this from the student, Amy, who told me it was a powerful lesson for her as well. She said she understood the idea of grace like never before. I asked, "So did you really get an F?

"Yes," she said. "I really did."


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