People often say that life is overwhelming. We all recognize the sick feeling that rises in our stomach at the visitation of the unexpected. Sometimes our worst fears our confirmed; other times a great hope is disappointed.
Being a teacher is a very rewarding, but also very discouraging, profession. We want to see instant progress and dream of making a discernible impact in our students lives. But the truth is, we are a small cog in the whirring machinery of the clock of a student’s education, and even a student’s life as a whole.
We make so many mistakes, failing in a plethora of ways. A few weeks ago a student informed me that she used an online translator during exams and quizzes the entire first semester. So did she learn anything this entire year? Doubtful.
But here’s where we all need a change of perspective. Life isn’t about success; it’s about faithfulness. Some of the least “successful” people in the history of the world have been those who chose to serve God faithfully. Do you call being thrown to lions in the Roman Colosseum, burning alive at the stake for heresy, suffering in a concentration camp, or spending years of your life rotting in a prison cell, success? No, but God does.
Today at school we celebrated world-wide “Peace Day” for the anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi’s death. People nowadays have a very warped idea of peace. In our first class this morning we listened to the song “Imagine” by John Lennon, which says:
Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people living life in peace…
I was singing along with the video in class, but when we got to the phrase “And no religion too” I shut my mouth as soon as I realized what I was saying. No religion? Is that the answer? Would demolishing religion bring about world peace?
“All of the greatest inhumanities in the history of the world have been brought about religion,” people often say. The injustice of that statement makes me sick. The 20th century, the age of atheism, was the bloodiest century in all of history. Is it a coincidence that in this era, when men began to “liberate” themselves from religion, they committed some of the greatest atrocities imaginable? Destroying religion is not the answer. Stalin, the greatest murderer ever to walk the face of the earth, was a dogged atheist.
The inhumanities of history have been brought about, not by religion itself, but by the abuse of religion. Men are sinful, and will find ways to manipulate and harm others with or without religion, depending on which is most effective and convenient. Christianity has been abused throughout history, and consequently Christ’s name has been stained.
In one class this morning the teacher discussed the importance of acceptance of others, and of open-mindedness. The term “open-mindedness” is another abused term. She cited homosexuality as an example; heaven forbid we should be one of the “closed-minded” and “prejudiced” people who actually believe that homosexuality is wrong, and that judges gay/lesbian couples.
When one of the girls in the class persisted in her view that homosexuality is unnatural and disgusting, the others immediately pounced on her. “As long as they’re happy, that’s the important thing,” said the teacher. “There is no right or wrong.”
If there has ever been a time when my blood has pounded in my ears, it was at that moment. “Say something,” I sensed the Spirit whispering within me. Here was this girl, who didn’t believe the teacher or the others when they blindly applauded homosexuality, and she had no one to support her or show her the truth. And there was I, desperate to say something but not sure how. The girls in that class already think I’m strange because I get up early and read the Bible, but they still look up to me. If I spoke up, I would risk being one of those intolerant, close-minded bigots that the teacher condemned.
“Can I say something?” I asked the teacher, my temperature rising about 100 degrees and my heart beating fast. “Okay, Kara is going to say something,” she said, probably expecting that such a balanced young lady as myself would support her.
“I am going to explain what I believe, but I don’t want to offend anyone,” I began, the blood rising to my cheeks. “The problem is, happiness isn’t the goal. We can’t let people harm themselves just because they want to. If Claudia [looking at a girl in the class] told me she was going to jump off a cliff, I wouldn’t say, ‘Okay, go ahead – if it makes you happy!’ I wouldn’t let her. I believe that homosexuality is harmful, and that it is wrong. Nevertheless, that doesn’t mean I’m going to say to a gay person, ‘I hate you; you’re foolish.’ I love them and I respect them.”
“So you’re against homosexuality?” asked the teacher, as if trying to decide how to manage this new turn of events.
“Yes. But [turning to the girl who had pronounced it disgusting] that doesn’t mean you should stop being friends with a homosexual. Tolerance is respecting someone without being in agreement with them.”
Of course, I’m sure what I actually said was a bit more confused then the version I wrote down, but that was the gist of my argument. Perhaps I completely messed up – there were a million other things I could have said. But what I realized was that by taking that step of obedience and speaking up, I had been faithful.
In some circumstances, silence is a great sin.
After the adrenaline had calmed down, I realized that I taken a small step toward bearing the reproach of Christ. Granted, a minuscule step. Nothing, really – but a step nonetheless. “Okay, Jesus, I’m willing to be seen as intolerant for Your sake.” There was joy in that realization. I felt freer, as if I recognized for the first time that it doesn’t matter what others think of you when you follow Christ; in fact, the more they reproach you the better.
My poor attempt to represent Christ most likely will not lead anyone to salvation. Maybe everyone will forget about it, and so it was not “successful” in the sense of proving a point or changing anyone’s perspective. But faithfulness, not success, is what God asks of us. And what I have realized more and more by living with absolutely no other Christians for the first time in my life is, that God gives us very small tasks to start with. If we walk in faithfulness and repentance every day, He will gradually entrust us with more. There’s peace in that recognition – peace in the knowledge that if we keep our eyes fixed on Him and faithfully obey what He calls us to do in each moment, He will guide our paths. That’s true peace.