He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers–all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile himself to all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of his cross. Colossians 1:15-20, NRSV
We’ve been spending some time in chapel this spring talking about the two great commandments. Recorded in Matthew’s gospel, 22:34-39, Jesus said to 1) Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul and with all your mind.” And, he says, the second is like the first, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” The significance of what Jesus does with these commandments is that he says the whole law and all the prophets hang on them. So, we have concluded that the way we show others we are followers of Jesus is the way we treat them. That’s what most people will see in us.
Even many of our younger students are able to see, and understand, the difference that is visible when we are obedient to these commandments. After ever chapel service with the younger elementary grades, the students are challenged to go back to their classroom and right then and there, put into practice these commandments, love God, and show your neighbors, who are your fellow classmates, what a difference Jesus makes. They take that seriously and it makes a difference.
We live in a fallen world, but the fact of the matter is that the world isn’t any worse, or better, with regard to the effects of sin, than it ever has been. There are some technological tools that bring more of it to our fingertips, but the root of humanity’s problems is still, as it always has been, sin. And sin is pretty easily defined by a lack of obedience to these two commandments emphasized by Jesus as “the greatest.” If you read that passage from Colossians at the beginning of the article, you can clearly see that it is Jesus who was given to us as our savior, and it is faith in Jesus, and not anything of human will or human intellect, that solves the sin problem which is at the very core of human failure. In one sentence, God reveals to us the resolution for all of humanity’s problems.
“For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through him God was pleased to reconcile himself to all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace through the blood of the cross.” And I put emphasis on that phrase, because that is where sin is resolved. Human intellect is a powerful force in the world, but it is nothing compared to the power of God.
One of the reasons we sometimes seem to see things looking bleak is that we take our eyes off of Christ, and we look to try to use the power of other things to solve our problems, including our own intellect. Our ability to think, to reason, and to figure the world out is, in and of itself, a gift from God, the thing that makes us unique in his creation and sets us apart from everything else. But it is also the source of our biggest temptations, when the thoughts come along that we can somehow solve our own problems with our intellect. When we are focused on Christ, our intellect is surrendered to the Holy Spirit so that it can be used as an instrument of God’s will. We teach our students that the reason they are learning things to train their mind, is so that God can use it.
Kids are observant, and they have many ways to look at what is going on in the world, especially if they have a phone or a smartwatch, or a computer or tablet. It’s a big deal to have videos or texts that “go viral,” and one of the vehicles that gets the hit numbers up fast is to post video or pictures of violence. That kind of behavior then comes into the school with the kids who see it and model it. That’s the opposite of what Jesus says. So the challenge for students is to figure out where their focus is taking them, and to understand how important it is to demonstrate faith with actions.