Sodom and Christian Education: The Big Story

At this November’s Missional Living of Scripture Conference at Calvin Theological Seminary, I had the opportunity to hear Christopher Wright speak on the topic “No Biblical Mission without Biblical Ethics.”

Using Genesis 18-19, Wright addressed three questions I believe are at the heart of our “big story” mission in Christian education: 1) What kind of world do we live in? 2) What has God promised to do about it? 3) What does it mean for us? These three questions provide us a means to use the “big story” of the Bible as a framework for the mission and practice of Christian education.

What kind of a world do we live in?

The city of Sodom serves as the representative of a world without God as the answer to the question, “What kind of a world do we live in?” In addition to the hostile rape story of Genesis 19, the prophets Isaiah and Ezekiel describe Sodom as corrupt, violent, affluent, arrogant, neglectful of the poor, and against the fatherless. “Then the LORD said, ‘The outcry against Sodom and Gomorrah is so great and their sin so grievous that I will go down and see if what they have done is as bad as the outcry that has reached me. If not, I will know’” (Genesis 18:20-21). As in our world today, the image of God in humanity cries out against inhumanity and injustice. Although the powerful in this world often are deaf to the cry, our God is not.

In this passage, Sodom is not the epitome of evil; it is just an average city without God. Our call as Christian educators from within the reformed perspective includes identifying the marks of Sodom in our own cities and countries. It includes looking into our own school communities for these same marks. How pervasive is the world’s influence; how deeply does it seep into the cracks of how we ourselves do business?

What has God promised to do about it?

“Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him” (Genesis 18:18-19).

God visits Abraham on the way to Sodom, speaking to the means of blessing on the way to observing the cursed. In addition to the familiar “all the nations of the earth will be blessed through him,” God speaks the promise-full words, “his household after him will keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.” Is this possible, God using broken humanity to bless the world? Yes, the heart of this promise is the heart of Christian education: God uses us to teach the next generation to keep the way of the Lord, and thereby to be a blessing to our world!

What does it mean for us?

Living to be the blessing means participating in the great mission of God: undoing Sodom. In fact, our call as Christian educators is to teach our children how to live in contrast to the way of Sodom, to look different, to be different, to be God’s “display” people.

One way to do this is to seek out the character of God and live into that character. Two passages to consider here are: “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8) and “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the foreigner residing among you, giving them food and clothing. And you are to love those who are foreigners, for you yourselves were foreigners in Egypt. Fear the LORD your God and serve him. Hold fast to him and take your oaths in his name” (Deuteronomy 10: 17-20).

We are chosen (elected) for the purpose of walking in the way of the Lord, being God’s display people, keeping his promise to bless all the nations. That is our big story. There is no higher calling. There is no profession better suited to be a blessing to the world!

– Bart Den Boer, worldview specialist

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