This week many students are returning to local classrooms and college lecture halls. I’ve got one heading back to Venice High School this week for her senior year, and she’s as excited as you can be after a relaxing vacation…minus the ridiculous amount of summer homework these kids get now. My eldest is even more ready to get back to college. She loves her new friends, and her teachers. I have to say, even though I’ve put in plenty of years in school myself, there are times when I miss the life of a student.
I've been thinking again this week of my own need for “remedial education.” No I’m not going back for another degree. I couldn’t afford it! But I do plan to spend significant time studying some books I did not read in college or graduate school. Each February, a few longtime friends and I gather at Fuller Seminary to discuss and apply some good theology that we missed back in the day. There is a lot to choose from, and that’s to be expected. There will never be enough time in this world to study, read, or learn it all. Indeed, John assures us in his gospel that “the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” about Jesus Christ (John 21:25)!
One of the lessons that school is supposed to teach us is how to keep learning. With that idea as a springboard, I’d like to make this observation: lifelong learning, the willingness to go back to school and do some remedial education is a critical need in our society. The Christian life, in particular, is marked by learning and study. The Cambridge scholar C. S. Lewis once remarked,
If you are thinking of becoming a Christian, I warn you, you are embarking on something which is going to take the whole of you, brains and all… Anyone who is honestly trying to be a Christian will soon find his intelligence being sharpened: one of the reasons why it needs no special education to be a Christian is that Christianity is an education itself.
Now this may seem like a sharp turn in this blog, but bear with me. As I was hearing the frightful story of white supremacists and neo-Nazis gathering in Charlottesville and the murder of counter-protesters last Saturday, one thing was clear to me: those who spoke the hateful words, unleashed the violence, or who failed to speak clearly against it, were poorly instructed, mentored, parented, or some combination of the above. Their teachers and guides did not lead them in the way of truth, justice, or divine grace. However it happened, they were duped, misled, and misinformed about basic moral principles and the most fundamental truths of the Gospel. Nor had they learned one of the most elementary truths of Holy Scripture: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Lev. 19: 18; Matt. 22: 39). Of course, we know it is possible to hear the truth, and still walk counter to it. For that we all need God’s mercy and the power of the Spirit to speak and act toward each other more like Jesus.
My point here is that remedial education is a continuing need for each of us. Our often broken and fearful human spirits cry out for it, whether we realize it or not. And while I cannot force anyone to go “back to school,” I can watch my own teaching and example. I can be the change I want to see in my own sphere of influence. As a Jesus-follower, we can keep worshiping on Sunday, keep reading our Bibles regularly, warmly invite others to join us, and apply what we’ve been taught in the midst of everyday life. With God’s help, we can endeavor to live as lifelong learners in the school of Jesus. The world needs students such as these. Hope to see you soon…