The Grace of Teaching

If we want to excel in teaching, our teaching needs to match the spiritual reality that is ours in Jesus Christ. In Christ we have been graced, loved, forgiven, guided, blessed, and comforted. We live in a story where creation is being restored, people are being forgiven, the future is good. Out of that reality, we teach. (Although different in content and scope, I derived this opening paragraph from an article in the Banner (April 17, 2015) entitled “The Grace of Giving” by David Vroege, pastor of All Nations CRC in Halifax, Nova Scotia.)

Passionate teaching is a spiritual activity. In fact, passionate teachers often relate how Spirit-led original thoughts come to them during the very act of teaching! In this writing, I reflect on the spiritual realities of being graced, loved, forgiven, blessed, and comforted.

In the Matthew 20 parable about workers in the vineyard, we learn that grace is a gift, and as such it cannot be earned. Grace is receiving something positive that we have done nothing to deserve. (This is different from mercy, which is not receiving a punishment or consequence we do deserve.) With what are good teachers “graced”? I am certain you can identify many in addition to the following:

  • Insights into their subject matter, and into life itself.
  • Perseverance to keep going after a particularly tough day, in the confidence that tomorrow will be better.
  • Passion for kids that results in living their craft.
  •  The presence of God, enabling them to observe students and situations through his eyes.

Teachers are loved by a God who, no matter what we do, is seeking our highest and best good. Teachers know that it is not possible to live lovingly unless one is living loved… by God! We know that, as the Luke 15 “lost sons” parable teaches, there is nothing we can do to make God love us more and nothing we can do to make God love us less. We not only know it, but we live it out daily with our colleagues and our students. We also know that love and forgiveness cannot be dependent on feelings. Biblical love is action-oriented, good Samaritan, let-me-show-you-love-even-though-I-am-your-enemy kind of love. As teachers, we demonstrate love and acceptance to those others may consider unlovable.

From Matthew 5: “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins.” Apparently forgiveness is important to God! A forgiving God expects the same of his followers, and to bear the name “Christian teacher” is to accept this responsibility. We know that we need forgiveness, and we know that we are forgiven, so we freely offer forgiveness according to Matthew 5:14.

“His disciples came to him and he began to teach them saying….” We are taught by the teacher, guided by Scripture, set apart to be holy, to be separate but not apart, to be children of Abraham through Jesus Christ, living to be a blessing to the nations. We hear the call of Deuteronomy 11 to trust and obey, knowing that God always puts his people in a place they can make a difference for him. The call of the Sermon on the Mount is clear. Teachers are guided to be spirit-of-the-law people, kingdom people.

Did you ever just skip over Ephesians 1:3? “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Jesus Christ is the teacher, the great teacher. While it is difficult to identify every spiritual blessing we have in Christ, Jesus himself gives us a list. He says, “Blessed are” the poor in spirit, the meek, those who mourn, the merciful, those who hunger and thirst after what is right, the pure in heart, the peacemakers, the persecuted. In short, blessed are those who are like me, for all of these are true of me. I often reflect on how very different this list is from our common North American thanksgiving lists that often include items like wealth, health, safety, national security and power, independence, opportunity, freedom, and military might.

“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.” Looking closely at this famous Isaiah passage reveals that our comfort can come only from God’s sovereignty. “Do you not know? Have you not heard?” Our comfort as Christian teachers is in the recognition that it is our loving, forgiving, and guiding God who holds our lesson plans in his hands—if we give them to him. It is he who offers us the keys to good relationships with students, parents, and colleagues. Comfort, yes. If only we allow him to.

As God’s people, we live in a spiritual reality that includes being part of a larger story where creation is being restored, people are being forgiven, and the future is good. Out of that reality, we teach.

– Bart Den Boer, worldview specialist

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