“I’m thinking of a word….” I tell my classes. They perk up, pencils poised over the familiar diagram on their papers. “My word means that guilt has been lifted from someone; they’ve been avenged in a way. Can you think of a situation or an example of something like that?” Hands up throughout the room.
“When your mom thinks you broke the lamp, but then finds out your brother did it.”
“The judge or jury finding you innocent.”
“The real guilty person confessing.”
All these go into the “situations/examples” section of the diagram. After several, I tell them they already know a lot about my word, then I write it in the middle of the chart — in this case, “vindicate, verb.” Then I give them the definition and other forms of the word. Later in the week, we’ll do synonyms, antonyms, and example sentences. (Thank you, Laura Robb! All good ideas are stolen, and I’ve been forever thankful for this one.)
Then my last class came in. This is my pre-AP class of twelve girls and one boy. Very bright, truly the cream of the crop. I asked the question, the first hand went up, and the girl said, “Jesus dying on the cross for our sins!”
My marker moved toward the white board. “Good!” I said at first, then hesitated. I frowned at her, and she frowned back. Something didn’t feel quite right. “Let me think,” I said, taking more examples.
Then it hit me. To be vindicated means you were presumed guilty but proved to be innocent. Justice is done. But when it comes to Jesus’ price paid, I was most certainly guilty. Absolutely guilty. Quick jury decision, unanimous and speedy conviction. But Jesus paid the price FOR me. I was never found innocent…I was GIVEN innocence in spite of my guilt.
I wasn’t vindicated, I was redeemed.
I deserved the mandatory death sentence. I received an eternity of love given through grace.
And that, in similar – if fewer – words, was what I told those twelve girls and one boy. Right smack in the middle of my public school classroom.