I have a lot to say. Sometimes I probably have too much to say – especially in the context of a classroom of children to whom I have to teach so much. Sometimes that fact is overwhelming and fear runs wild in my mind, as I wonder how on earth I will fit it all in. How can I meet all those outcomes or squeeze all that content into the minds of the little ones who sit at my feet, day in, day out? Yet if I let those thoughts rule, I would be even less likely to teach my students anything. Yes, I need to work to deadlines, create programs, complete assessments, evaluate lessons, not to mention deal with student behaviours (and sometimes parent behaviours) that can be difficult to work through. But, if fear rules, it wins and I lose. And so do my students.
I do have a lot to say. I think most of us do if we stop and think about it. Even the most introverted of persons can have their say through social media these days. They don’t even have to speak a word, yet can share their voice with millions at the click of a button. How do we speak out about what matters in a way that is in line with Christ’s commandments? How do we teach children to make a difference to this broken, crying world in a way that will be fruitful?
It is interesting to note that the school playground is often similar to the world that students will walk into as adults. Yes, Christian schools will tend to be more sheltered than public schools, and Christian workplaces (in some ways) will tend to be more sheltered than secular workplaces. Yet even within these Christian environments injustices will occur. No matter how hard teachers work to eradicate teasing and bullying, it will still happen. Why? Because that is life. There will always be someone hurting, who only knows how to relate in ways that bring others down. Sometimes these people will even be put in positions of authority which can make life unbearable for those who work underneath them. We have anti-harassment workplace laws in our country, just like the school ground has school rules. We have teachers on duty to patrol the playgrounds, just as the police patrol our streets. Does this stop bad things happening? No. It does not.
How can we make what we say, matter?
To be honest. I don’t know the answer. At times I feel like I want to approach the people who have caused my friends or family members pain and tell them to stop. It is not okay to drench someone in anger. It is not okay to make someone feel they are a lesser person because of a simple mistake. It is not okay to yell at someone in front of an audience of spectators. It is not okay. Yet, instead of this, I often revert to next easiest thing, which is to complain about it to others, and say the things I wish I could say to them in person (but clearly am not brave enough to do).
I know we try to teach children to stand up for themselves with words, rather than fists, and we encourage them to stand up for others when they see an injustice occurring. This looks very different in the playground than in a workplace, and it looks very different in a workplace than in a war field of terrorism, or in a global refugee crisis.
43 “You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy.44 But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! 45 In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike. 46 If you love only those who love you, what reward is there for that? Even corrupt tax collectors do that much. 47 If you are kind only to your friends, how are you different from anyone else? (Matthew 5:43-47, NLT).
LOVE your enemies. PRAY for those who persecute you.
I am not saying by any stretch of the imagination it is easy to love those who persecute you. Some may even think it futile to pray for people who treat you unfairly. ‘That won’t work,’ many may scoff. But why did Christ instruct it? Why has He commanded it specifically? And not just to love others… but to love your enemies.
Maybe it is because He knows that if He resides in our hearts, we will have the strength to pray for others. Because (with His help) it is in the act of praying, that we are exercising that love. You never know what can happen if you commit yourself to persistent prayer for the sake of an enemy.
Sometimes we have to be brave.
I challenge you (and myself) to this calling today… speak less, love more.
And see what Christ can do.