Sunday, January 13, 2019

James 3:7-8

For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and sea creature, can be tamed and has been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison.  James 3:7-8 ESV

After 35 years of service in Christian school education, a career that began as a combination English and history teacher in a Christian high school in the Barrio of East Houston and that has led through five schools in three states, and from the classroom to service as a principal and lead administrator, I have collected enough material to write several books.  One of the books would be on the value of a Christian school to the ministry and mission of the church and to the lives of the students who were given the opportunity to be educated in one.  The other would be a word of encouragement that would help those who are called to Christian school ministry as teachers, staff members and as parents of students to avoid the sin that causes setbacks and disappointments and creates stumbling blocks to spiritual growth and the faith community that develops in a Christian school.

I don't point fingers.  During those 35 years, I have made plenty of mistakes and have learned from them.  Mainly what I've learned is how to let God be God, discern his will and seek direction and counsel in resolving problems and issues from the Holy Spirit.  A Christian school is a discipleship ministry that aims to teach principles of "Kingdom citizenship" to our students, including their academic skill development as part of the same experience.  We do that believing that education is the process of understanding and discerning what God has already revealed about who we are and what is the purpose of our life.  Because we are laying a foundation for the future with children and  youth, most of the issues and conflicts that arise as we do our work are attacks from the enemy aimed at disrupting what we are doing and bringing down a ministry that is making disciples and helping them grow to maturity.  And most of what we deal with involves exactly what these verses in James are addressing.

Issues related to our words are the biggest problem I've encountered in every single Christian school where I've served.  Every one.  I can't understand it, except in the context of it being an enemy attack on people of faith.  It is important that the teachers and staff of a Christian school have a complete understanding of the mission and purpose of Christian school education in order to be effective at their job.  It is important for parents to understand that these individuals are making a similar sacrifice as they are making by paying tuition for their children to be enrolled.  It is important for our mutual trust to be rooted in the unity that comes from all of us belonging to Christ and having him as our savior, which links us together as brothers and sisters and fellow members of his church.   Selfish interests are the source of what James is talking about in this passage, words and attitudes that reflect attitudes that poison the atmosphere.  The enemy does not want schools to strengthen the faith and spiritual formation of young people.  And so he stirs up dissention that causes discouragement, poor decisions, gossip and slander.

Social media makes it easy to spread gossip.  It is difficult to work on resolution of a problem when you do not have to face the person with whom you have the problem.   In an isolated environment, you have access to media that allows your personal perspective to get a head start on the facts, to "get ahead" of a problem and to try to use the influence you have to control the outcome of an issue.  False information leads to bad decisions.  Selfishness is the root of our sin problem, the elevating of our preferences and needs over others, and over God.  Gossip is the byproduct of selfishness.  The hurt that it causes fractures relationships linked through the fellowship of Christ's church and damages ministries.   It kills churches, and it can kill Christian schools, too.

I do not see any model of ministry in the scripture to which Christians are called to sit back and be served.  The ministry model I see is one where those who are part of a ministry, for whatever reason, are charged with the responsibility of bringing their spiritual gifts into it and working together with others who have done the same thing to build an effective ministry that accomplishes its mission and purpose.  That includes the parents and students who come to a Christian school.  This is a Christian community, and we are all responsible for helping it to achieve its mission and purpose.

If you've enrolled your children here, then lift us up in prayer.  Don't talk bad about us when we don't live up to your expectations, help us by praying for us and using your gifts to help us improve.  If you have a problem, don't criticize us on social media first and then come and talk to us later.  We're here because we've been called by God to serve as we do and because we love your children.   We've trained at our own expense to be able to offer this ministry of education and discipleship in the hopes of teaching and nurturing children, your children, to grow up with love and respect for God, to experience his salvation by grace through faith in Jesus and to hear his voice and fulfill his purpose for their life.  We have your child's best spiritual interest at heart.

You are making sacrifices to place your children here, we are making similar sacrifices to make that possible.  We're on the same side, with the same goals in mind, fighting against the same enemy who does not want children being taught in a place where they are being prepared to fulfill their calling in God's will.  The poison of the tongue, set on fire by selfish ambition, only makes it more difficult for you to enjoy the abundant blessing that having your child in a Christian school can be.