Christianity’s relationship with public education is complicated and fragile, and it’s something I never thought much about until I became a teacher in the public school system. Raised as a Christian in a suburban county lucky enough to have remarkably good public schools, I never considered the idea of public school as being harmful to my character or moral development (although, perhaps it crossed my parents’ minds.) And, when I left my public college to start teaching in a public high school, I rarely considered that my beliefs might come in conflict with my career.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from both attending public school and teaching in it, it’s that public school is far from godless. Sure, it may not allow for teacher-led prayer or morning devotional, but these schools are not soulless places. In fact, they’re typically buildings full of deeply passionate, committed adults and kids who are always in need of love—just like any Christian school might be.
Another word for slander in Greek is diabolos. It is the word that is used for Satan and means the “accuser”, the one who attacks the brethren. Slander is the passionate, determined goal of one person to destroy another. As you can see, it is driven by bitterness, rage, anger, brawling and every form of malice. It is diabolical. What are a few ways that we may attempt to slander someone for the purpose of harming their reputation?
- Sensationalism — spinning what someone said to sound evil.
- Betraying confidence — using constructive criticism shared in private and telling the person not present what was said with an evil spin. This is usually done so that they will join in the brawl against another person.
- Putting words in a person’s mouth that were never said. This is a more straightforward, outright lie.
We do well to note that Jesus spent a lot more time talking about the characteristics of followers than he did of the characteristics of leaders. And what is said of leaders doesn’t sound much like what the world tends to think of in a leader.
But God has called certain Christians to tasks of leadership, specifically to the job of equipping the church for ministry.
- Worship wars.
- Prolonged minutia meetings.
- Facility focus.
- Program driven.
- Inwardly focused budget.
- Inordinate demands for pastoral care.
- Attitudes of entitlement.
- Greater concern about change than the gospel.
- Anger and hostility.
- Evangelistic apathy.
I introduced my daughter to the joys of the original Super Mario Bros. a couple of weeks ago. Of course, to do it right, this isn’t run in emulation, downloaded to the Wii U virtual console, or any other non-authentic experience. She’s seeing the game in full 8-bit glory running off of the NES I got from my parents some 25 or so years ago. She’s had the privilege of blowing off the cartridge, and she even got to use an original NES controller.
At first, I just handed her the controller and let her have at it. Unsurprisingly, she figured out how to move and jump all by herself. Where she had more problems was in coordinating those two elements. She probably spent a solid five minutes repeatedly running headlong into the first goomba until she successfully jumped over it. Then she successfully jumped over a few other obstacles, but the second pit proved to be too great a challenge.
Eventually, my daughter asked for help, and we began playing the game hand over hand. At first, I held the controller with her thumbs on top of mine. After a few minutes, we switched positions, and something really interesting happened. At first, her thumbs were very tense, and she would press buttons without guidance. After a few repetitions, however, she relaxed, fully trusting that I could help her through the obstacles that lay ahead if she would just give up control and let me.
Trust in His Hands
This is the type of complete trust we should have in our own Heavenly Father. Psalm 56:3 simply says:
When I am afraid, I will trust in you.
I Peter 5:6 – 7 speaks of trust this way:
Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you, casting all your anxieties on him, because he cares for you.
Finally, here’s how Jesus addresses this kind of trust in Matthew 6:25 – 34:
Therefore I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink, nor about your body, what you will put on. Is not life more than food, and the body more than clothing? Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life? And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin, yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.
But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.
God is there holding His hands over ours, but we so want to take control from him. My little girl learned, through trial and error, that I would guide her through the parts of Super Mario Bros. that were giving her troubles, but she had to relax and let me have that control. Sometimes all we have to do to give God control is relax.
So many things tempt us to tense up and grow anxious. People on the news tell us of terrible events from around the world, and they do so in a way that encourages stress and discouragement. Editorialists and pundits tell us what we should be stressing out over and what we should be feeling angry or fearful about. There are the daily stresses that seem to pile up so much. These influences and others tempt us to misalign our priorities and try to seize control from God.
Jesus and His apostles tell us to do the opposite. This is a way we should be separate from the world. Instead of letting these things tense us up, we should be simply giving control over to God and letting Him guide us. Let’s humble ourselves under His hands and trust Him to guide us before all of the obstacles this world places before us.
Comfort and Joy — those two words summarize the gospel message very well. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus extends this invitation:
Come to Me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. All of you, take up My yoke and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for yourselves. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.
This is an invitation to all of us who want to leave behind the burdens of the world and find comfort in His arms. Jesus goes on in the the following verses to talk about how He is Lord of the Sabbath, the day of rest from this world’s labors. He offers comfort that gives us refuge and rest from this world and its concerns.
In John 15:11, when Jesus is telling His followers of the love He has for them and that they should have for each other, He says:
I have spoken these things to you so that My joy may be in you and your joy may be complete. This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you.
How many times can we read of Christ’s followers rejoicing? They rejoice in worship. They rejoice in prison. They rejoice in persecution. They rejoice in their hope. Their lives are joyful because they carry Christ’s joy and love inside them.
Too often, we trade Christ’s comfort and joy for burdens and heartache. We dwell on things that take away our peace. We take in influences that squander joy, and then we might go and do the same to others. Think of how confrontational and impatient we can become while waiting in lines or stuck in shopping traffic this time of year. Think of how you treated the last cashier to ring your order up incorrectly.
We proclaim to serve a risen Savior, a Prince of Peace, Emmanuel, the Lamb of God. Every day we follow Him should bring us comfort and joy, and we should then spread that everywhere we go. What joy it should be to know that we have a home prepared with our Savior! What comfort we should be able to take in the fact that the burdens of this life are temporary and that He came to bear the weight of our transgressions! How can we let anything in this world get us down when we keep those things in our thoughts?
These two qualities are then rooted in love — love for our Savior, love for the world, love for each other, and the confidence we have of God’s love for us. It’s a way we should be set apart form the world. During the holiday season and throughout the year, we should bear tidings of comfort and joy.