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But Have Not Love, I Gain Nothing

As Terrell and I wrestle with the question of schooling for our children, a question that never needed wrestling before because we used to be certain about “the best” option for them, it is revealing ever so many lies I have called truth.  As with most aspects of one’s world view, these aren’t things that I am fully conscious of nor are they in all cases choices of one belief over another.  More accurately, they are assumptions based on my limited experiences and the particular traditions of my culture with about as much genuine significance as those old notions that it is practically immoral to wear white shoes before Memorial Day or seersucker pants after Labor Day.  Yet I hold to them as if in fear of my life should I be found in violation of such rules of the game.  I have “the Law” in regard to my children’s education printed firmly on my forehead but I do not have Jesus as the fulfillment of that Law.

These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,  and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations— “Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch”  (referring to things that all perish as they are used)—according to human precepts and teachings?  These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.  Col. 2:17-23

Sure, throughout history we Christians have made all sorts of rules about worship (this kind of music is more authentic and honoring to God, that use or rejection of liturgy is more faithful to the heart of Jesus, these social behaviors represent Jesus better than those, etc.), but if I falsely distinguish the sacred from the secular, I am doing what the Bible does not do.  My heart at church is the same heart standing in the kitchen at the end of a long day and the same heart standing out on the street with my neighbors.  The things to which I submit my heart, in which I place my truest trust and around which I wrap my strongest affections become as much my Lord and Master as I intend for God alone to be.

One of my strongest affections, it seems, is not to be excluded from the “members only” room, club or associations.  There is not only something intoxicating about being identified by and with the community’s elite but there is something almost irresistible and even possessive about it.  This particular affection promises opportunities through people who have resources, influence and the admiration of those who can “make things happen”.  Suddenly, it becomes apparent, it is not the people themselves that are always of value to me, but what they can provide and how they can improve my own standing.  I picture it something like a narrow set of steps to a throne, with barely enough room for too many and all of us working our way to that seat of honor, power and glory.  And then, like Edmund in Narnia when he suddenly realizes the true nature of the white witch, I see the subtle way in which I have been sucked in to a position which opposes Aslan as it dawns on me I am seeking his overthrow for my own rule.  And then also realizing the only position actually being secured is my own execution.

For although there may be so-called gods in heaven or on earth—as indeed there are many “gods” and many “lords”—  yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist.  1 Cor. 8:5-6

When I fear so genuinely the exclusion from certain systems, opportunities and insiders’ clubs, it is clear that I have come to believe that it is through those connections that abundant life is to be found and that it is in them that all things hold together.  Besides the way this sets my own heart against God as the only rightful occupant of that throne, this unquestioned quest reduces people to stepping stones rather than images of God to be cherished.

So what does this have to do with my children’s education and the local schools we are now considering?  Well, of course there is a difference in approaches to education and there are more effective and engaging ways to develop the critical and creative thinking skills of children.  But what I am realizing is that while it is very true that I have really wanted my children to be in a learning environment that stimulates their curiosity and fuels a lifetime desire to keep exploring and wrestling with the world around them, of almost equal value has been the “door opening” power of the institutions and individuals connected to their education.  In other words, even school has been for me about getting the biggest boost toward that throne for my children.  The Law of education I have been following has been a “how to get ourselves on the throne” directive without including the person and work of Jesus in the equation.  Suddenly, God is interrupting this way of viewing people and institutions, challenging my idol factory of a heart and impressing upon me the good and freeing news that His ways and His views of people extend all the way into elementary school, not just after graduate degrees have been attained.

As we begin to visit schools comprised not of the movers and shakers in the city but of the frequently moved, displaced and shaken, He is opening a new avenue by which He will change my self-serving heart into one more like His…One who loves with no respect for title, earthly position or power.  As He peels away sin’s blinders from my eyes and hardening of my heart, I have a feeling it is I who will be counted among “the least of these” in far truer ways than those I currently place in that category based upon material and social standards alone.  My children will learn how to manipulate numbers accurately and how to craft an articulate argument in writing and speech no matter where they attend school.  But for me, in God’s commitment to complete the good work He has begun, He has more significant growth to effect…that I would begin to truly love as I have been loved – generously and sincerely, without favoritism or selfish ambition diminishing the authenticity of that love.

As I sit here in this moment, I absolutely do show favoritism to the “cool”, the influential, the powerful and even the beautiful.  There is no room for this view of humanity in the story of redemption nor in the value that is found in the person and work of Jesus alone, by faith alone.  I look forward to the day when I will see all people as having no greater value than Jesus and, just as He sees me, with no less value than the fullness of Jesus in whom I am clothed.

And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.  Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways.  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known. 1 Cor. 13:2-12

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