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Greek, Grades, and Grace

“Surely that can’t be right.” I leaned closer to the computer screen, willing away the obvious. However, it was hard to deny the pull of reality, and the next few minutes were spent coming to grips with the fact that in my first semester at seminary, I had earned a C+ in my first-ever Greek class. A C+! Understand, I am not comfortable with being a C+ sort of student. NASA and I have one thing in common – failure is not an option for either of us. This was the mantra by which I had rigidly lived for quite some time.
Academics weren’t my strength or my concern, in high school. I hadn’t the discipline and concentration necessary to produce quality work. However, college was something of a redemption for me. I was fond of my professors, loved what I was studying, and consequently was highly motivated to do my best. In the end, I graduated summa cum laude, quite confident in my academic abilities.
However, although my college had finished with me, I still had plenty to learn in the school of God. He used a year-and-a-half stint overseas to whittle my ego nicely down to size. Colombia opened up cans of worms that I never knew I had in my cabinet. When I flew out of Bogotá on my return trip to the States, I was embarrassed that I had ever thought so highly of myself to begin with; there wasn’t much about me that was commendable after all. If there was anything at all.
Yet the Holy Spirit still wasn’t through with me. He had opened my eyes to who I was in myself – nobody, really – but as of yet there had been no practical application in one vast area of my life – academics. I was nobody, but I was a nobody who could get good grades.
Enter seminary. The Lord knew what He was doing when He opened the door for me to attend Dallas Theological Seminary. Not only am I learning much in the classroom, I’m also discovering how much I’d failed to learn before. Since college days, my secret justification before men for my existence has been my brain. But with four years between me and my summa cum laude, my initial days back in the classroom provided ample evidence that my supposed mental prowess had thoroughly rusted over.
Greek was particularly humiliating. The further we progressed into the semester, the lower my grades slid. It soon became apparent that language learning was not my forte. No matter how much effort I exerted, top grades were perpetually unattainable. My goals for the class were progressively downsized, from getting an A, to finishing with an overall B, to just passing. In a very real sense, the aforementioned C+ was the grace of God; my grade easily could have been worse.
Mercifully, Christmas break finally came. By then, the Lord had gotten His point across. He had done it kindly, gently. My other six classes had gone very well, grade-wise. But He had reserved Greek 1 to illustrate an important lesson – apart from Jesus Christ, I have nothing in which to boast. All “natural” talent comes from Him, as well as all spiritual gifts. He gives it and He takes it as He pleases. I have been buried and raised again with Christ. There is no failure and no success – only Him. If there is success, it is in reckoning myself so completely identified with Christ that His triumph is mine. If there is failure, it is in imagining myself capable of achieving success apart from Him.
Nobody gets through the judgment seat of Christ with a summa cum laude. The Lord is not going to ask us to parse λύω. He doesn’t care if we can stump our brilliant theology prof with impossible questions. He will, however, look to see if and how the reality of the cross and empty tomb saturated the substance of our being and determined the course of our life. Let’s do Greek (and every other class) as if Christ really died, really rose, and really united us with Himself. How would that look?
By Rebekkah Scott. Rebekkah is pursuing a ThM at Dallas Theological Seminary. She has a passion for the fulfillment of the Great Commission, that God might be magnified and all peoples blessed in His Son. When she isn’t struggling to parse Greek verbs, she enjoys exploring the great outdoors, music, and writing. 

Written by
Ryan Burns

Ryan Burns is a past Marketing Manager at Faithlife and now works at Redemption Hill Church in Richmond, VA.

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Written by Ryan Burns