Apologizing "for real"

Blogger, educator, and parent JoEllen published a wonderful piece called A Better Way to Say Sorry a few weeks ago. Shout out to my friend & M.Ed. fellow student Niki for punting out such a great read.

JoEllen suggests, wisely, that the typical way we adults handle childhood disputes leaves out the hard work of reconciliation. It’s “simple” to make kids go through the motions of “saying sorry,” but everyone is left the poorer afterward when the wrong-doer escapes with a halfhearted mumble and the wronged party knows that no one was actually sorry at all.

Redemptive teaching suggests that teachers need to 1) recognize biblically normative practices for human relationships and 2) encourage those practices in our classrooms via 3) aligning our procedures to reinforce the idea of loving God and neighbor, rather than trying to implement “rules” or a “process” that can somehow magically erase problems.

JoEllen came up with four basic steps to use as a pattern for apology with her 4th graders. This pattern is true for all humans, not just kids — and we would accomplish a lot as educators if we chose to follow the same steps when we find ourselves needing to apologize to our own students.

From her post (please do go read the whole thing)

A Better Way to Say Sorry:

1) I’m sorry for…: Be specific. Show the person you’re apologizing to that you really understand what they are upset about.
2) This is wrong because…: This might take some more thinking, but this is one of the most important parts. Until you understand why it was wrong or how it hurt someone’s feelings, it’s unlikely you will change.
3) In the future, I will…: Use positive language, and tell me what you WILL do, not what you won’t do.
4) Will you forgive me? This is important to try to restore your friendship. 


JoEllen’s classroom experience corroborates mine: If you model biblical thinking and action in front of your students (whether they’re 6 years old or 16), you will see positive change among your learning community.

Rules cannot accomplish nearly as much as following the Great Commandments do in our hearts (and you don’t have to be teaching in a “Christian” School to model loving God and neighbor for your students.).

Discipline that Restores

“Restorative Practices”: Discipline but Different
from Education Weekly (URL)

Public schools are realizing that zero-tolerance discipline doesn’t work. If your goal is to educate students, then arbitrarily setting automatic penalties like suspensions and expulsions for what often takes place in much more nuanced situations forces principals to treat kids like criminals rather than emerging adults (if you’re dealing with teens).

I’m glad that the idea of discipline rooted in community, and within a positive teacher/student relationship, is coming to the fore.  Nothing is more powerful than a positive relationship. When a student and teacher have invested in one another, there’s something to lose if the relationship goes south. And the teacher begins to save up a significant pile of “relationship capital” that backs up her behavioral demands in the classroom.

“It’s about building relationships and having [students] do what you want them to do because they want to do it—not because they’re afraid of what the consequences are,” said Rhonda Richetta, the principal of City Springs, which has 624 students. “We really want kids to change.”

The article talks about “restorative discipline” as a new thing.  …. How have we come so far down this road of rule-based schooling?

The Law never works to change us into righteous people. All it can do is show us just how horrible we human beings are on the inside. 

Once you go relational, you’ll never go back.

Is it harder to discipline in grace, and teach relationally?  Well, that depends on how you define “hard.”  Loving another human being always costs something. Grace always costs the Giver.

But I think it’s a much better cost than the stress and negative emotion associated with trying to manage a classroom full of kids who don’t care for your lesson, your subject, or you.

Schools & Rules: What about rebellion?

So, it took me longer to get back to the Schools And Rules series than I’d anticipated, but teaching has a way of eating your life when you aren’t looking. 🙂

Plus I needed to let that pot simmer on the back of the mental stove for a few weeks (months?) to collect my thinking more clearly on the issue of rebellion.

First, a recap:
Schools and Rules — Intro — a case in Vermont of a Christian school kid who was suspended partly for questioning his school’s dress code rules and other policies got me thinking about how Grace-in-Education might force some differences in the way we educators think about school rules

Authority — Here, we discussed the idea that obedience to a human authority should not be equated with obedience to God’s Law. If we teach kids that their consciences are bound by human legislation as if God Himself were speaking, we’re inviting serious trouble once those kids learn to think for themselves about God’s ethics and ours.

Channeling the Challenge — Disagreement isn’t just “part of life”; it’s healthy. When we refuse to discuss what students want to know — even if they’re being jerks about it — we telegraph several really negative messages, including “adults don’t have answers, they just talk” or “faith is too fragile for tough questions.”
If you’re new here, I recommend reading those posts above or we run the risk of misunderstanding each other. And in the words of the inestimable Dr Michael P V Barrett, “I hate to be misunderstood.”
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Any discussion of rule-keeping must raise the question, What about legitimate rebellion? Isn’t that a sin? Or how about disobedience?

It’s a hallmark theme in Scripture that we need to obey God’s law (go search biblegateway.org for uses of the word “obedience” or “obey” …. go ahead, I’ll wait …. huge list! Especially in Deuteronomy and then the historical books of the OT). And lest you think this is just an Old Testament thing (you don’t really disparage the OT, do you? please don’t do that), the NT has its big share of commands and exhortations to obey.

Disobedience (Scripturally) carries heavy penalties. For the nation Israel when they were in the Land, disobedience cost them everything. Failure to heed divine Law leads us into despair, ruin, and deep sin. Thankfully the Gospel is bigger than our abject failure — more on that in a minute. But you can soak on verses like Nehemiah 9:17 for a while.

Rebellion is an even deeper sin, scripturally speaking. The province of men like King Saul or Pharaoh or Israel in the wilderness, rebellion is marked by stubbornness, an unwillingness to change, challenging God’s authority with a stiff neck and upraised arm. It’s a straight shot of disobedience with an arrogance chaser. (The biblical data for both of these words is abundant and easy to find — run a biblegateway.org search on the terms and read up).

I want to draw a couple distinctions, limiting our discussion to the realm of school (parenting advice is above my pay grade), and suggest some Gracious ways for responding to disobedience and rebellion in the classroom.

DISOBEDIENCE
Rebellion is purposeful, measured, intentional. You might accidentally disobey a rule but you can’t rebel against it without some forethought.

On the other hand, a student may disobey out of forgetfulness, inattention, laziness, or ignorance. Punishing students harshly for disobedience probably isn’t a good idea until you’ve gotten some idea of what the situation is. God offers multiple examples of responding in mercy to our faltering attempts to walk in His ways. He didn’t get out the big guns until Israel was in full rebellion.
And remember that natural consequences are a powerful teacher…. I don’t need to bash my students for not doing their homework. The 13% they got on the reading quiz, along with the ire of their parents, will be corrective enough.

Disobedience when defined as “ignoring or contradicting a rule” isn’t even wrong in all circumstances. Let’s say there’s a rule that says pedestrians should not be crossing an interstate highway. Fair enough. Good law. I hate having to dodge those crrrrazy pedestrians when I’m motoring up I-85. Now let’s say I pull over because there’s been a horrible accident in the median, and I need to cross 6 lanes of traffic to get to someone who’s injured. If the person bleeds out before I get there, I doubt “well, I didn’t want to cross the road; I knew the State Highway Patrol enforces that law really tightly, Officer, so I wasn’t able to get over to help that guy” will hold up as a legitimate defense.

Coart likes to say “Every good rule will at some point become stupid.” Why? Because rules are for stupid, foolish, sinful people. That’s why we have them. Rules tend to be written for the lowest common denominator of stupidity. Therefore, you will always find times when rules need to bend or break in order to achieve honest justice in a particular situation. If I don’t cross the highway, I’m endangering a life. The rule needs to lose.

(By the way — the fact that rules tend to be written for LCD of stupidity suggests that maybe we shouldn’t make so many new rules and policies based on a particular incident. Exceptional failure to exercise good judgment — on the part of one student — doesn’t mean the rules are inadequate. It just means that kid was exceptionally foolish and probably needs to be treated as an exception.)
Most of the time, classroom disobedience demands a timely yet gracious response from the teacher. But not anger, insinuations of sinfulness, or condemnation.

And we must always differentiate between “my rules” and God’s Law. If a student punches another student in the face, it’s God’s Law that undergirds the trip to the principal’s office. Sure, schools have rules about physical interaction but the point is that punching your classmate in the face seriously violates the injunction to love one another. Unless the punchee was an attacker headed into the classroom to harm the students — then the puncher is a hero. See? All rules must exist within a deeper biblical framework of ethics and we have to know the particular situation before we can decide whether “disobedience” has occurred.

More realistically: I generally don’t appreciate students talking while I’m teaching. So if someone is Chatty Cathy on the back wall, I will usually insist on silence for the sake of the other students. But what if I’m teaching Latin and the talker is actually trying to help her classmate understand how this new grammar about the genitive connects to the previous lesson on the accusative case endings? Yes, there’s an issue of “time and place” to discuss — and younger students especially don’t have a good natural sense of what’s appropriate and when. But for me to punish the student who’s trying to be helpful to a fellow classmate and assist them in learning? Totally inappropriate.

In fact, in most cases, disobedience works itself out especially in older students once calm correction is applied to the situation. If I have to pull a kid into the hallway for a brief talk, that usually ends the problem. My investment in the life of the student carries significant weight, and their role in my classroom community matters as well. We both have a lot of stake in the classroom, so we both (usually) want peace. It can get hairy, yes, but patience and consistency and calmness (rather than labeling a kid as “disobedient”) will bear good fruit over the course of the year.
Oh wait — you wanted a quick and easy route to the harvest of obedience? Sorry.

REBELLION
But what about Rebellion? (It just needs a capital R.)

Good teachers and administrators intervene quickly when they sense rebellion, rather than disobedience, at the heart of a matter. And you can smell it…. really. The intentionality of rebellion, the arrogance — hard to hide. And it’s dangerous to the student himself and to the community of learners (who can catch his disease).

We should always take cues from God in His dealings with His people. God carefully disciplined Israel and her kings toward obedience for their own good. When people insisted, stubbornly, on rebelling against His authority, God brought in the big guns. Grace has a steel backbone.

I’ve observed a few cases of rebellion during my years at NCS and both of our headmasters were patient, godly men who knew how to love a student enough to sit back and take questions (even when the kid was a jerk) in order to push through to find the core reason for the rebellion.

Occasionally, it didn’t work out, and we lost the student. Some kids are so reckless and disobedient that they’re dangerous to the rest of the school. Those kids gotta go if they refuse to change. (I guess that would be like Israel’s exile?) But most kids start to calm down once they realize adults are actually LISTENING. Once the questions get answered, once the alpha male (principal) lets the kid go a few rounds and get tired of fighting, things calm down.

Thing is, you can’t “control” rebellion any more than you can “control” or force a kid to obey. I realize that small children give parents the illusion that the parents can be in control of their kids’ behavior….but it really is an illusion. And that illusion shatters as the children become teenagers.
Behavior is always a heart issue, and the only tool that works on a person’s heart is self-sacrificial love. (But that’s another post.)

~~~~~
I wish the Vermont school administrators had dealt graciously with the troublesome kid who refused to stop asking questions about school rules.
I get it — I quickly tired of kids whining about the dress code. BUT we always should be willing to engage in discussion about WHY the rules are what they are, and schools need to be willing to change outmoded rules or ones that aren’t working. Some battles aren’t worth fighting. NCS slowly tweaked its dress code over about 5 years’ time, and I’ve heard fewer and fewer complaints.
I’d like to wrap up with a shotgun list of applications and one recommended reading:

From Compliant Kids to Ethical Thinkers (John T. Spencer)
What an incredible blog. I don’t know this guy but I think we’re cut from the same cloth. Read his post — it’s short. Good fodder for today’s discussion, and a great example from a public school classroom.
And my applications —

  • Differentiate between disobedience and rebellion. They are not the same thing, and they should not be handled the same way when disciplining.
  • Most disobedience is unintentional and needs to be corrected, not punished. Punishment is punitive; it’s damage in return for damage. Correction is helpful and empowers a student to make better choices next time.
  • Rebellion is actually pretty rare in a functional community. It’s probably a red flag too — there’s more going on in that student than a sudden desire to impale the rulebook. Dig deeper and you’ll start finding upheaval, brokenness, abuse, fear, or anger.
  • Don’t confuse human authority with God’s Law. Don’t punish infractions of human rules as if they were breaking God’s laws. That is a dangerous conflation and you will pay for it dearly as soon as a kid learns to think for herself.
  • Natural consequencesof one’s actions will always teach more powerful lessons than anything we can construct as a “punishment.” Stop sheltering kids from the natural consequences of their actions. It’s God’s built-in correctional facility for this planet and it works pretty darn well when we let it. That doesn’t mean you throw a kid to the wolves or let him hurt himself, but it does mean that we all need to experience the reality that we create because of our choices. And that’s a far more powerful tool for sanctification than demerit slips, long lectures, or detention.

To wrap up this series, I think I’ll offer a fictional case study of how I would have liked the Vermont teen to be treated…..

Cross-posted to my personal blog

Schools and Rules: Channeling the challenge

This is another post in a series.  We’re thinking about how authority and rules (and challenges to those rules) should play out in a Grace-based classroom.  Earlier posts are right before this one if you want to catch up.

2. If you refuse to allow criticism or challenge within your classroom/school, you’re painting a huge target that says, “Faith is too fragile for everyday use.” 


One aspect of classical education pedagogy that I really appreciate is an understanding that kids go through different stages in their interaction with facts (and with the people who inform them of that information).  Your sweet, cuddly elementary school kid will go through a horrific transformation around age 12 and become… DUN DUN DUN … a teenager. (*insert terrifying music here*)  The rolled eyes, the sarcasm, the desire never to be seen within 100 feet of one’s parents, the arguing.

The arguing.

I like middle schoolers because they do like to challenge. And they challenge everything: your sock preferences, the weather, your reason for assigning the rest of a grammar exercise on a Wednesday night because that’s just how it worked out. (“But we never had Wednesday homework LAST YEAR!”)

One of the hallmarks of NCS upper school life has been a consistent practice among the faculty of treating the upper school students with the respect one gives adults, but not expecting them to live up to that standard of maturity. Kids are kids. But they’re becoming adults, and we need to move in that direction rapidly. They have questions, and most of the time at NCS, those questions reflect a legitimate desire to know and understand (rather than to rebel or undermine).

So we explain things a lot.  Nothing is off-limits in my theology, practice, rulebook, subject matter. I don’t assign work without having a specific purpose for the task. While I might not always explain why I assign what I do, I always can (and do when asked). I know what I’m teaching, why I put it in the curriculum, and why it’s beneficial.  The stuff that I couldn’t justify, I changed.

Sometimes that means my classroom rules are inconsistent with the policies of another teacher. That’s a great opportunity to teach “Not all people want the same thing, and you need to find out what’s expected of you by the person in charge” — a wonderful life skill. So I don’t particularly care for “answer in complete sentences” on my tests because I find it annoying to read a bunch of extra words that have nothing to do with the actual answer. I wrote the question; I don’t need you to remind me what I asked. Other teachers want short answers written into complete sentences. Great. Knock yourselves out.  I don’t need to change for their sake, and I certainly don’t expect them to adopt my policy. And every student I’ve ever taught has rapidly picked up on the differences among classes.

So what does this have to do with Faith?


When you aren’t willing to rise to the challenge, many people will assume you are afraid to engage their criticisms or that you do not have a valid reason for your position.  

Think about it.  You stop by the local magistrate to pay your speeding ticket and the lady behind the desk says, “I’m sorry, we don’t accept credit or debit cards. Did you bring cash or a check?” And we adults trudge back to our cars and drive down the road to find an ATM, cursing the local government using colorful adjectives. We assume the government policy makers are idiots. Who doesn’t take a credit/debit card in 2012? The traffic court. Why? I don’t know. South Carolina lawmakers have never impressed me with any sense of intelligence. There’s no reason they CAN’T change their policy…but they don’t.

Why do we expect kids to obey or believe without giving them justifiable cause?

Now, if you’ve put in the hours necessary to build a relationship with that kid; if you know them — really, truly know them — and have acted graciously toward them; if you love them in actions rather than in words alone, then a lot of teens will take your words to heart. You don’t have to offer a geometric or theological or philosophical proof for why you won’t let the kids go walking down to the gas station by themselves.  If he knows you usually have good reasons for what you ask, the boy won’t backtalk you when you yell “GET DOWN!” just before a football slams into his head on the playground.

But you have to build that trust.

The Christian Faith is a reasonable, justifiable, warranted belief. (Thank you, Al Plantinga.) God doesn’t strip us of our inquisitiveness and rational thought (part of the imago Dei IMHO).
Look at the Psalms. David (and the other psalmists) hit God with some rough questions. Why are the bad guys winning? Why am I suffering if I didn’t do anything wrong? Have You forgotten Your promises? Why do bad men abuse weak people? Don’t you feel ashamed for letting me look bad, God, in front of my — I mean, YOUR — enemies? 


Instead of being afraid of challenges, questions, and hard topics, embrace them.

If you don’t know, say you don’t know. Research it. Find an expert. Search the Scriptures. Get answers.

If you can’t justify your rule biblically, if it’s a rule that makes life convenient for adults, or if it’s not serving a clear, obvious purpose in your setting (one that extends from loving God or loving neighbor)– maybe the rule should go?

Up next — so, what about true rebellion?

Cross-posted to my personal blog

Schools and Rules: Authority

Yesterday I mentioned the case of the kid in Vermont who was suspended for the remainder of the year by  his Christian school because of his essay challenging the school’s rules for behavior and dress code. I used that as a jumping off point to think about how we should handle challenges to authority within a Grace-based school.

I certainly don’t have it figured out.  Kids challenge authority all the time.  Adults challenge authority all the time. We sinners hate boundaries.

But I can leverage a little experience and theology to offer a couple thoughts…. here’s the first.

1. Obedience to a human authority should not be equated with obedience to God’s Law.


I’ve heard this syllogism a lot:  God must be obeyed as our ultimate authority; His Law is absolute and without question. God delegates authority to parents and pastors and governors and teachers (etc). Therefore, human authorities can demand the same level of obedience for their rules as God expects for His.

First off, that’s a terrible syllogism (from the standpoint of logical structure).

Secondly, it’s not a biblical statement of obedience or authority. We can’t add corollaries to God’s Law and call them holy. Human rules are just….rules.

Yes, Scripture commands obedience to church elders and to parents and to our government officials, even when we don’t like them. But derived authority does not also endow us with the power to bind people’s consciences to non-biblical rules. People with authority need to be careful of the limits they choose to set for behavior when dealing with the tender consciences of kids.

I realize that the kid who wrote the essay at Trinity probably just wanted to grind his ax about the rulebook. That can grate on the nerves of adults who see a bigger picture than “I don’t like wearing khakis and a polo every day.”   Cynical skeptics are a drudge — they don’t offer any constructive solutions to a problem, they just sit back and tear apart whatever’s been built.

But if we can’t defend a rule from a biblical mandate (“modesty” doesn’t demand a “school uniform”), then authorities need to take steps to unlink “following the dress code” from “keeping the Law of God.” They’re not the same thing.  Call it a policy, give students a voice in setting their communal rules, and work toward consensus.

(Personally, I’m glad the “I-hate-the-dress-code” theme has toned down a lot at NCS during my 10 years there. The people who determined the dress code have made a lot of really good adjustments over the past several years, and I think that we’ve got a good balance of a functioning school uniform combined with dress-down Fridays — and those dress-down days exist on purpose to reinforce the idea that our dress code rules are not God’s rules for clothing. Students aren’t thrilled about it, but they mostly just don’t care. School clothes are just that — school clothes.)

My classroom rules are mine. God’s Law is far more difficult: Love God with everything you have as hard as you can all the time, and love your neighbor like yourself.  If I’m doing my job, I can tie my class “rules” back to the Great Commandments as illustrations of loving God or neighbor in a community of humans … but I also need to be honest with kids that some of my rules are just idiosyncratic, and they deserve to be changed if kids point out legitimate problems with their implementation or function.

Note that a lot of student frustration arises out of adults shutting kids out of the process. By the time a student reaches adolescence (and definitely by the time they’re in high school), he/she should be given a voice in the school structure for which s/he will be held responsible. It diffuses a lot of griping, and it’s a much more respectful way to deal with students as human beings who are about to be “adults” and legally responsible for their decisions/actions.

This approach demands patience and work by adults to involve students, downplay immature suggestions, encourage half-baked good ones, and guide the whole mess toward a coherent and useful outcome. Welcome to education.

more to come….

Cross-posted to my personal blog

Schools and Rules: An Introduction

A few weeks ago, a junior at a independent Baptist Christian high school in Vermont was suspended for the remainder of the school year because of an essay. His paper (which avoided topics on the teacher’s “banned topics” list) challenged the school’s dress code rules as ineffective and inconsistent. Citing a yearlong attitude of “rebellion,” the school board chose to suspend him because this was a ‘last straw’ moment of bad attitude.

The incident rapidly hit the blogosphere, especially among ex-Fundamentalists, and later caught the attention of the local FOX News affiliate in the school’s town. Outraged supporters of the student founded a Facebook page calling for the school to “do right” and apologize. A few days ago, the church leadership surprised the school community by announcing that the school would close its high school at the end of the school year, naming low enrollment as the cause.

Having taught for a decade, I can sympathize with beleaguered educators like the people at Trinity. I’ve encountered plenty of folks who don’t comprehend the mission of NCS, leading them to badly misunderstand what we do or misrepresent us to others (sometimes with the best of intentions). To teach is to invite criticism and often condemnation.

On the other hand, the student raises a major question for school life. What about the rules? Should schools arbitrarily set policies without input from students? Is is disrespectful to question or reject those rules? Can questioning become “rebellion”?

I started thinking about how I’d handle a challenging student in my classroom at NCS. This is a good test case for Grace-based education. Our theology reveals itself most clearly when someone has the nerve to challenge it.

I’ve become a lot less defensive as I’ve grown in personal maturity Definseiveness i amark of insecurity, which ought to be a trait of immaturity. Scripture doesn’t present Yahweh as a defensive authority figure. God doesn’t “earn” credibility or respect from us; He deserves it by default. His dealings with humans are incomprehensibly gracious (the overwhelming theme of the Old Testament stories).  I’d like to suggest that godly authority is patient enough to allow for critique and challenge, even when the challenger cops a nasty attitude.

Truth is a Person — Jesus Christ (Jn 14:6).  I’m not responsible to save people or convince them on an intellectual level of biblical truth. The Holy Spirit illuminates minds and the Father draws people to the salvation won by the Son through his vicarious sacrifice. That’s a freeing set of principles, believe me.

In Milton’s great treatise against ineffectual censorship, the Areopagitica, he famously writes that Truth, on an open field, will always win the battle. I tell my students, “Never be afraid to ask hard questions. If what you believe is actually the Truth, it can handle any challenge you throw at it.”

(And a corollary for parents: Calm down. Smart kids question a lot of beliefs. Trust the Covenant promises and believe that God is at work in your kids, especially when they are skeptical.)

Why do so many adults react badly to being challenged?

Is it because we have blindly bought into a system of thought without doing the intellectual or spiritual heavy-lifting to make it our own?

Are we secretly afraid that our own faith, authority, or level of integrity is too weak to be challenged?
Are we too proud to appear ignorant in front of people younger than we are?

Have we found ourselves stuck in a system of rules that we can’t agree with either, so we try to keep the subject from arising?

Grace-based education seeks to apply Gospel norms to the structure and methods of education. (IOW: you can talk about the Gospel all you want, but if your structure and rulebook and attitude toward your students undercuts the Gospel message at every turn, you’re going to impress hypocrisy onto their minds more than anything else.) How can a committed Christian community of learners approach skepticism, questioning, and intellectual freedom with both strength and grace?

…. I’ll take up that question tomorrow.

Cross-posted to my personal blog

Two Is More Than Enough

I think I’m beginning to understand in a TINY way how ridiculous it is that life boils down to Two Great Commandments. Love God with everything in you as hard as you can all the time, and love your neighbor like you love yourself. 

Such a straightforward mandate really scares some people, the folks who really want a school defined by a large number of very clear rules, a structure prepared in advance to handle any situation that could arise, a holiness code that guides all students in all situations.  

They are afraid, I guess, that God underestimated man’s sinfulness or our need of rules to make us better people or whatever, and we need to help Him out by creating a few more than His ten. 

Joey and I were talking today (it’s time for me to wrestle a class schedule into place for the upper school) and at one point it occurred to me that his job demands much servant-hearted love from him to us, the teachers and students and parents. I mean, teaching is heavily relational at NCS (a style that I am bold enough to call biblical, and perhaps normative) but we teachers aren’t called even to the level of sacrifice that Joey is. 

I thought of the verse in either Matthew or Mark where Christ tells the disciples that while the Gentiles make a big deal of leaders by lifting the up, Kingdom leadership is marked by self-sacrificing servanthood. “Truly, I say to you, he who would be the greatest among you must be the servant of all.” “Except a corn of wheat fall in the ground and DIE, it cannot bear fruit.” 

This love stuff isn’t for sissies. 

As a teacher, I can’t really help a student unless I “own” his problems as my own. Human nature says, “Sink or swim, kid, I gave you the tools, now make it work.” Grace-based education says, “Even the classroom must model Christ as the Master Teacher.” And that means I can’t just leave behind a set of directions and walk off. I have to get into the trench, shoulder the load, invest the time and attention to determine the right course of help.

Truth is, I’m a terrible lover. I love all the wrong things: my own comfort and happiness, my satisfaction and success, making things easier on myself, the easy road, the whim of the moment. To actually keep the Great Commandments is going to rip my heart out. 

And that’s the Grace of it. A new heart is exactly the point.

Biblical living isn’t rocket science. It’s putting myself out in order to work actively on someone else’s behalf (not merely “do no harm”). 

It means DIE so that I can live. 
But I don’t want to “die”……..not like that, anyway. I want a death with glory and pizzazz. There’s no pizzazz in plodding along, loving people. It’s hella inconvenient, messy, difficult, unrewarding at times, thankless, exhausting. Did I mention inconvenient? 

Oh, God. Who is going to save me from the bondage of this death? 
Thanks be to God, there is therefore now no condemnation to those who are IN Christ Jesus, who walk not in the way of the carnal nature, but in the way of the Spirit. 


Love God with everything you are as hard as you can all the time.
Love your neighbor like you love yourself.

That really does encompass it all, folks. 
God help us all.