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Pastor’s Desk: He took my licking

Posted on Tuesday, May 21, 2019 at 2:01 pm

Chris Herring, Church of Jesus Christ and the Latter-Day Saints – Mexico ward

Gordon B. Hinckley past President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints told this story “He Took My Licking” in the December 2000 Ensign. It is a heartwarming folktale penned many years ago,  whose original author is not known. “Years ago there was a little one-room schoolhouse in the mountains of Virginia where the boys were so rough that no teacher had been able to handle them.“A young, inexperienced teacher applied, and the old director scanned him and asked: ‘Young fellow, do you know that you are asking for an awful beating? Every teacher that we have had here for years has had to take one.’‘I will risk it,’ he replied. The first day of school came, and the teacher appeared for duty. One big fellow named Tom whispered: ‘I won’t need any help with this one. I can lick him myself.’“The teacher said, ‘Good morning, boys, we have come to conduct school.’ They yelled and made fun at the top of their voices. ‘Now, I want a good school, but I confess that I do not know how unless you help me. Suppose we have a few rules. You tell me, and I will write them on the blackboard.’One fellow yelled, ‘No stealing!’ Another yelled, ‘On time.’ Finally, ten rules appeared on the blackboard.

‘Now,’ said the teacher, ‘a law is not good unless there is a penalty attached. What shall we do with one who breaks the rules?’“‘Beat him across the back ten times without his coat on,’ came the response from the class.‘That is pretty severe, boys. Are you sure that you are ready to stand by it?’ Another yelled, ‘I second the motion,’ and the teacher said, ‘All right, we will live by them! Class, come to order!’“

In a day or so, ‘Big Tom’ found that his lunch had been stolen. The thief was located—a little hungry fellow, about ten years old. ‘We have found the thief and he must be punished according to your rule—ten stripes across the back. Jim, come up here!’ the teacher said. The little fellow, trembling, came up slowly with a big coat fastened up to his neck and pleaded, ‘Teacher, you can lick me as hard as you like, but please, don’t take my coat off!’“‘Take your coat off,’ the teacher said. ‘You helped make the rules!’‘Oh, teacher, don’t make me!’ He began to unbutton, and what did the teacher see? The boy had no shirt on, and revealed a bony little crippled body.‘How can I whip this child?’ he thought. ‘But I must, I must do something if I am to keep this school.’

Everything was quiet as death.

“‘How come you aren’t wearing a shirt, Jim?’ “He replied, ‘My father died and my mother is very poor. I have only one shirt and she is washing it today, and I wore my brother’s big coat to keep me warm.’

The teacher, with rod in hand, hesitated. Just then ‘Big Tom’ jumped to his feet and said, ‘Teacher, if you don’t object, I will take Jim’s licking for him.’‘Very well, there is a certain law that one can become a substitute for another. Are you all agreed?’

Off came Tom’s coat, and after five strokes the rod broke! The teacher bowed his head in his hands and thought, ‘How can I finish this awful task?’ Then he heard the class sobbing, and what did he see? Little Jim had reached up and caught Tom with both arms around his neck. ‘Tom, I’m sorry that I stole your lunch, but I was awful hungry. Tom, I will love you till I die for taking my licking for me! Yes, I will love you forever!’”

To lift a phrase from this simple story, Jesus, my Redeemer, has taken “my licking for me” and yours for you.

Declared the prophet Isaiah: Surely he hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: …… He was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are healed” (Isa. 53:4–5).

Contrast the previous story with this Parable in Matthew 18:23-35:

“ Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of his servants. And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents. But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made. The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, Lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence: and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, Pay me that thou owest. And his fellowservant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying, Have patience with me, and I will pay thee all. And he would not: but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt. So when his fellowservants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done. Then his lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me: Shouldest not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee? And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses.”

Jesus not only forgives us of our sins when we repent, He also suffered pain beyond mortal understanding in the Garden of Gethsemane and on the cruel cross. Because of the price He paid we are commanded to keep the commandments and forgive our fellow man.

Will we like Jim be eternally grateful for Tom “taking his stripes” or will we be like the servant whom was forgiven of his debt but turned and refused to forgive another?

We will all be judged according to our works and there will be eternal consequences if we do not choose the path of discipleship. I want to be clear: There is no way we can “work” our way into Heaven!

The grace of the Father cleanses the sins and imperfections of those whom truly love him in word, deed and those that choose to repent of their sins, and forgive others.

The path of true discipleship by design is not easy. But the reward of eternal life with our families and friends will be so very worth it.

May we choose this day-to-day no matter what- to always, now and forever, follow Jesus Christ is my hope and prayer.