Teachers

The imperfections of my teaching are covered by the perfection of Christ

Advertisements

Read: James 3

Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly. We all stumble in many ways. Anyone who is never at fault in what they say is perfect, able to keep their whole body in check. (James 3:1-2)

Reflect:

I’m on a break from teaching with the school holidays, so now is a good time to meditate on this verse, before I head back into my two teaching roles: teaching men to read and women to read the Bible.

James has a warning for me (3:1): that, as a teacher, I “will be judged more strictly.” It is absolutely imperative that I teach rightly and righteously.

In my reading, writing and spelling classes, this means teaching consistently the patterns of the English language: phonemes, graphemes, blending and segmenting and word classes, syntax and punctuation. It also means teaching my students as my ‘neighbour’ with respect, humility and compassion.

In my Bible study small group, I must prepare diligently so I know the text (2 Corinthians, next term) thoroughly and have allowed God to speak to me through the text before I attempt to help my group members hear God’s voice through his word. It again means treating my small group members as my ‘neighbour’ with gentleness, kindness and understanding.

In all this, there is a reminder that although the standard is very high, God knows “we will all stumble in many ways” (3:2). I am not perfect, not faultless in what I say. There is only one who was perfect, the greatest Teacher, Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God, for Jesus died to grant his perfection to me and to all who believe in him. [This is the doctrine of imputation of righteousness.] Trusting and relying upon Christ’s perfection, therefore, I set out to teach.

crux:

The imperfections of my teaching are covered by the perfection of Christ.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I know I’m not perfect, and I’m certainly not a perfect teacher. I slack off, or have down days – sometimes even weeks or months where I struggle to feel the passion for teaching words and teaching your Word that I’ve felt before.

Thank you that Jesus was a perfect example of teacher for me to model my own teaching upon. Thank you that he was not just a model; thank you that he justified me and made me righteous.

May your Spirit empower my teaching. Make me bold, enthusiastic and godly.

Amen.

Favouritism

Christians must show unbiased love rather than favouritism

Read: James 2

If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbour as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favouritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. (James 2:8-9)

Reflect:

James presents a contrast between love and favouritism. Favouritism, as James explains in verses 2-4, is essentially discrimination – when one person is treated better and another worse, based upon a judgement of their status in society as a representation of their inherent worth. Love, however, is shown when the other person is treated the way the self wants to be treated; for the benefit of the other, even as all people (even if their emotions are so twisted that they despise themselves) seek to serve themselves and meet their own desires and needs.

So this is a very high standard that James commands of Christians. Like Jesus, James tells us we must love the other, the different. Whether our ‘neighbour’ (any person we meet) is of a different cultural or socioeconomic background; or of a different gender or practicing a different mode of sexual expression; or lives in a different family structure; or holds to a different political persuasion: regardless of our differences, Christians are to love others.

Neither are Christians to show partiality or preference for those more similar, or those whose attributes are more highly esteemed. Again, this is hard.

But Christians know all people were created equally in the image of our God. And we know that all people suffer in some way the effects of sin, so the image of God is marred in them. We know that God desires all people everywhere to come to repentance and saving faith in Jesus Christ. So as Christians, we must love all with God’s love.

crux:

Christians must show unbiased love rather than favouritism.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

I know you want me to love others and not show preference. This is very hard to do. Please help me.

Please help me to treasure other people as your image-bearers. Help me to have mercy on others for the way your image is marred. Keep me from egotistically thinking that your image is somehow less marred in me or in those I think are more like me.

Please help me to show the image of your Son in my life, in my everyday ordinary.

Amen.

Helper

Be a helper to the poor – this could, so easily, be me

Read: Deuteronomy 24

Do not take advantage of a hired worker who is poor and needy, whether that worker is a fellow Israelite or a foreigner residing in one of your towns. Pay them their wages each day before sunset, because they are poor and are counting on it. Otherwise they may cry out to the LORD against you, and you will be guilty of sin. (Deuteronomy 24:14-15)

Reflect:

I’ve been thinking a lot today about poverty, the reasons people might be poor and the inherent disadvantages of being poor. There are many things that can happen that are outside of our control, yet which can cause a cascading slide into poverty. James described the unpredictable withering of wealth in his letter to Christians (James 1:10-11), “the rich will fade away even while they go about their business.”

Once you are poor, you are extremely vulnerable. If you can’t afford to buy a decent car, you are at the mercy of dishonest salespeople and risk buying a ‘lemon’ because that’s all you can afford; then you spend more on repairs than those who can afford a good car in the first place. If you don’t have money to fill your car’s tank, you might not be able to make it to a job interview on time, or you might have to pay extra for groceries because you can’t travel to the reasonably-priced stores. Your health will suffer because you can’t afford nutritious, fresh food; you have to work long hours in low-paying jobs so there’s no time nor energy left for exercise and fresh air. Poverty is often an intergenerational problem. It’s no baby’s choice to be born to poor parents, yet those whose parents live in poverty are, themselves, at elevated risk of living in poverty as adults.

For all these reasons, it is vital for Christians to do what they can to alleviate poverty and the potential causes of poverty. This is part of loving our neighbours. We need to act justly, love mercy and walk humbly with our God, as Micah 6:8 says.

crux:

Be a helper to the poor – this could, so easily, be me.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for the material wealth you have given to me. Please help me to never take it for granted but to be wise and generous, just, merciful and humble in its use.

Please open my eyes with compassion for the people around me who struggle with poverty and all its pitfalls today. May I be helpful to them and not a hindrance; may I act for their advantage rather than my own, and for their benefit rather than their detriment.

Amen.

Empathy

It takes wisdom, compassion and empathy to love my neighbour well

Read: Deuteronomy 23

If a slave has taken refuge with you, do not hand them over to their master. Let them live among you wherever they like and in whatever town they choose. Do not oppress them. (Deuteronomy 23:15-16)

Reflect:

In Deuteronomy 23, Moses provides a list of circumstances and the right and righteous way for Israelites to deal with these circumstances. Many of Moses’ instructions, like the one above, seem obvious within the West’s cultural mores. Essentially, these are ways to “love your neighbour as yourself”, a command that was first explicitly stated in Leviticus 19:18 and emphasised by Jesus (eg Matthew 22:36-40). But these ideas haven’t always been universally accepted as wise.

Many acts of love for others that are taken for granted in Christian or post-Christian societies were birthed from the Mosaic Law or from Jesus’ teachings. The West’s present-day customs are heavily influenced by historical Christianity.

There are some things that the Mosaic Law requires which are no longer valid in the time after Jesus’ death and resurrection. For example, Moses said (23:1), “No one who has been emasculated … may enter the assembly of the LORD.” But Philip explained the good news about Jesus from the Old Testament Scriptures to an Ethiopian eunuch who was soon baptised as a sign of his entry into God’s kingdom. Jesus’ life and ministry opened the kingdom wider than it had ever been.

No matter the historical or geographical context, loving your neighbour never goes out of fashion.

crux:

It takes wisdom, compassion and empathy to love my neighbour well.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

Thank you for a marvellous day. Thank you for helping me to talk to people and show my loving kindness with my words, something that did not come easily for me until you made me new with your Spirit.

Thank you for moving me to be next to Elizabeth on the plane so we could talk and she could be less nervous about the flight. Thank you for keeping me awake and alert so I could chat with people at the party and be friendly with people I had only just met. Thank you for the opportunity to stay with my friend Amy and her family and fit in with their everyday ordinary life. Thank you for all these new ‘neighbours’ you have brought into my life as I travel.

Please help me to be wise and compassionate in my interactions with Amy’s family and any other people you will have me meet.

Thank you for all the ways your Law was fulfilled in Jesus.

Amen.

 

Law

The LORD gave his people laws so they would live rightly

Read: Deuteronomy 5

Moses summoned all Israel and said:
Hear, Israel, the decrees and laws I declare in your hearing today, Learn them and be sure to follow them. The LORD our God made a covenant with us at Horeb. (Deuteronomy 5:1-2)

Reflect:

As Moses begins his second sermon, having described the events and the God which brought the people to the edge of the promised land, he turns to the topic of the Israelites’ lives and behaviour once they enter this promised land. The LORD had made a covenant with Israel at Horeb, and that covenant needed to be kept in the promised land as in the desert.

The law Moses now expounds (in very similar words to Exodus 20) can be divided into two categories: the peoples’ relationship with the LORD their God (5:6-15) and the peoples’ relationships with each other (5:16-21, with a small mention of relationships with servants in 5:14 with respect to the Sabbath observance).

Actually, this is an interesting difference, because here in 5:14 the law is explained. The Sabbath was given so that they and their servants might rest. This is why Jesus Christ maintained that it was lawful to do good on the Sabbath, even if that took effort (Matthew 12:12), because the Sabbath was made for man and not vice versa (Mark 2:27).

crux:

The LORD gave his people laws so they could live rightly with him and with each other in the promised land.

Respond:

LORD God Almighty,

You are God. By definition, by your very identify you are Creator and Controller, law maker and righteous law-keeper. You are just and merciful, holy and kind.

Thank you for giving your people rules to live by for a relationship with you. And than you for providing a way for us to be forgiven and reconciled to you when, inevitably, we broke your rules.

Thank you that these ten commandments still instruct us today. They may no longer demand obedience because Jesus fulfilled the law completely on our behalf. But they do tell me that you care about the way I pursue a relationship with you; you care about the way I treat other people. Thank you for showing me a better way to live my life, a way to love you and love others, by caring about your glory and their good.

Please help me to love you totally and to love my neighbours well. Thank you that I was able to love my son well today.

Amen.