While in college and graduate school, I noticed a marked difference among teachers in how they handled questions raised by students. Some tried to bluff their way through and provide some sort of answer even when it was clear they didn’t have one. Others immediately and frankly said that they didn’t know the answer. Ultimately, I concluded that it would be dishonest for me to try to pose as one who knew all the answers when in reality, I often didn’t know them. I resolved early on that I would frankly admit I didn’t know the answer when it was beyond my present scope of knowledge.
This lesson in my own education stayed with me in my professional life. While teaching theology in one of our overseas colleges, I regularly taught a Sabbath school class composed of some faculty, staff, and community members.
One Sabbath an incident occurred that made no impression upon me until five or six years later when I received a letter from an individual I didn’t even know.
The letter was from a woman who had a Jewish background. She wrote that she had come reluctantly to Sabbath services one day at the insistence of an Adventist minister who accompanied her to my Sabbath school class. At that time she hadn’t joined the Adventist Church because she had no respect for Adventist ministers. In her view they acted as if they knew it all. She wrote that in my class that day someone had asked a question, and I had frankly acknowledged that I didn’t know the answer but would try to find it and would report back the following Sabbath whatever I had found in my research. At that moment, she wrote, she resolved to join the church and commit her life to Christ.
This woman’s letter showed me how an ethical decision I had made in response to the example set by my teachers many years before helped influence another person in a life-changing way. When we have committed our lives to God’s service, He uses us at odd times and in strange ways to accomplish His purposes and win souls to Him.
“Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience” (Colossians 3:12, NIV).
By R. Dean Davis
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