A Culture of Grace
Teaching is a relational endeavor. It assumes relationship. It requires relationship. It thrives on positive relationship. Education presupposes learning in relationship—in a community. Unlike the Trinity, where there is a perfect relationship between the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, the relationship between parent, faculty member, and students is characterized by brokenness and the common bond of Christ’s redeeming grace add unconditional acceptance.
The popular culture we live in teaches “behaviorism” as a means of getting people to behave in ways we want we want them to perform. It thrives where relationships are lacking, or superficial. It is a quid pro economy, where the faculty member or authority says, “If you do this, we will do that.” This is a conditional relationship that treats children like animals, and not as imago dei.
Conversely, the way of Christ says, “I’ll die for you and you don’t owe me anything.” As a matter of fact, you cannot repay me anyway. We cannot shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life (Phil 2:15,16) as parents and Christian educators, unless we are doing what Christ did—without condition or exception. That is, we must be willing to empty ourselves for Christ’s sake in ministry and relationship. Teaching is relational! Leading, teaching, and shepherding flows out of relationship.
So, what does that look like in a school or classroom context? Here are a few aspects:
- Dependence through prayer. It is impossible to remain bitter, sarcastic, or resentful when sincere prayer is offered up regularly for the students and their families. If we can see ourselves in our students, we will become passionate and mercy-seeking as we pray for them.
- A community of grace finds a way to be grateful in all circumstances. It is a place where members find ways to celebrate the gift of salvation and God’s enabling power to live out this new life. The constant refrain should be one of thankfulness that is pervasive in all areas of the school.
- Breathe out grace. We cannot breathe out what we are not breathing in. Ken Sande wisely says, “As we are filled with his grace, we can then breathe it out to others by . . . bringing them hope through the gospel . . . forgiving them as God has forgiven us and manifesting in our words and actions the fruit of the Spirit.” When we are faithful to breathe out such grace, others will receive God’s grace through us.
- Making charitable judgments. In most situations, your attitude will carry more weight than your actual words. Making charitable judgement means that out of love for God you strive to believe the best about others. God calls you to embrace the positive interpretation over the negative, or at least to postpone making any judgment at all until you are proven wrong.
- Commitment to live redemptively. God calls us to be agents of reconciliation. We plead with each other as ambassadors for Christ.
A community of grace exists where the standards are high and forgiveness and acceptance are virtuous held by all. The relationship between staff and students should never be a casualty of the punishment or consequences of a bad decision by a student. Instead the continued relationship rooted in grace become the atmosphere of human flourishing.
Ken Sande, Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Peacemaking (Baker: Grand Rapids, 2004), 170.