Our scripture theme for 2021-22 is Philippians 2:3-5, with an emphasis on verse 4, “Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others.” After several messages in chapel interpreting this passage and providing examples for our students to follow regarding how they can look after the interests of others, we’ve moved into the gospels, and are looking at how Jesus taught us that the most visible testimony we have as one of his followers is found in the way we treat other people. Not just other Christians, but other people.
We looked at the Sermon on the Mount to see some specific ways Jesus teaches us that our concern and treatment of others around us, and in school that means our classmates and teachers, is a visible demonstration of and testimony to our belief in him as our Lord and Savior from sin. Matthew 5 is full of such examples, about being angry with someone, or referring to them as a fool, about not retaliating when someone does something requiring our forgiveness and in giving love to our enemies as well as our fellow believers. It was during our looking at these passages that our first graders wrote their previously referenced letters about their Wednesday after chapel activity.
We’re now in Mark’s gospel, looking at the place where Jesus directly teaches how a Christian is to put their priorities in life together and live an abundant life according to the gospel.
“The first is ‘Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God, the Lord is one; you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these. ”
Even in a Christian school, learning how to put the needs of others ahead of your own, and love your neighbor as you love yourself is not easy. Being selfish is part of human nature, it is something we do without even thinking about it. And there are plenty of places in our culture where we are encouraged and taught to be our own number one, to promote our own interests and to try and make the world over in our own perspective.
Jesus’ words recorded in Matthew, where he encourages his followers to turn the left cheek if someone slaps them on the right cheek are well known. At a conference for high school future business leaders in Arizona a few months back, a well-known American businessman actually used those words in an illustration, not in the way Jesus intended, but he told the students that “turning the other cheek” wouldn’t get them anywhere in this world. And he was right. But we shouldn’t forget that Jesus told us, “My kingdom is not of this world.”
We have been made right with God because of our faith. So we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. Through our faith, Christ has brought is into that blessing of God’s grace that we now enjoy. And we are very happy because of the hope we have of sharing God’s glory. And we are also happy with the troubles we have. Why are we happy with troubles? Because we know that these troubles make us more patient. And this patience is proof that we are strong. And this proof gives us hope. And this hope will never disappoint us. We know this because God has poured out his love to fill our hearts through the Holy Spirit he gave us. Romans 5:1-5, ERV
We have far more than the world can ever give to us. Our students come to us every day for instruction in practical subjects and skills which we hope will help them navigate in the world and which will be useful to them in many ways. But we also hope that they learn that worldly success does not create happiness or keep us from being disappointed or troubled. Our faith makes us right with God and when that happens, we are transformed by the Holy Spirit. Here, every day, there are examples of the Holy Spirit’s presence. This is a good place to experience happiness, patience and the love of God poured out through his Holy Spirit.
Starting with their own classroom is one of the best places to put the words of scripture into practice. “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Look around, students. Your neighbor is in the desk in front of you, to the left of you, to the right of you and behind you. What are you going to do today, to demonstrate your love for Christ by loving your neighbor? What, specifically, do you plan to do to make one of your classmates feel better about themselves, and experience a blessing because you have put their needs ahead of your own?
If you have a plan, then you’ve been paying attention. Good for you.
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