Happy Anniversary to us! It has been four years since this blog first appeared, and what a season it has been. Thank you so much for joining me on a journey to know God better, and to love people more. So much has happened in that span of time. In my own family, we gained three beautiful grandchildren, a new son-in-law, and have had ministry roles change for everyone in our family. In the broader picture, many of us have experienced real loss and change, and we all muddled through Covid as best we could. At the same time, so many joys and triumphs have occurred. It has been a lot of wonderful, God-given life, and what a joy to know Him and walk with Him. I look forward to sharing another year with you all!
Nearly thirty years ago, at this time of year, I was beginning my first year as an elementary school teacher. The first day of your first year is something to remember. Suddenly, and for the first time in your life, you are on the other side of the desk. It is your responsibility to make sure that the kids in your care are safe, loved, and above all else, educated. The daunting task of taking someone from illiteracy to literacy, and from unfamiliarity with numbers to proficiency is sobering. But what a joy to watch young minds learn and grow. Back in the day, it was still an accepted and expected outcome that students would learn to read and to think for themselves. Education was understood to be the foundation each student would need to build a life.
But how interesting to look back on that time and realize that it was the beginning of a great sea-change in our culture. I have some vivid memories from the first teacher inservice day of that year. I was on the fourth grade team, the sole new teacher in a group of highly experienced veterans. Three of them were at the stage then that I am now - empty nest and second stage of adulthood. These ladies knew exactly what they were doing, and did so with excellence. They were so gracious to answer my many questions and to give me many helpful methods and strategies. Their reaction to the special speakers on that day made a lasting impression on me.
The theme of the day, as you might expect in an elementary school environment, was based on a fun, whimsical name - TTWWADI, apparently pronounced to-wah-dee, and devised with the hope of producing ridiculing laughter. It stood for That’s the Way We’ve Always Done It, and the idea presented all day was that it was definitely time for some new ways of doing things. Why should we keep on doing the same old thing, year after year? How silly to do things just because they are the way we have always done them! When the day is new and the future so bright, why should we stick to the same old crusty ways? Modern kids, they said in 1993, ought not be constrained by the rigorous and demanding methods of the past. We would not want to crush their creativity or stifle their imaginations by expecting everyone to learn in the same exact way.
I had never been a teacher before, and I had never heard a presentation like this before. All I knew was my own school experience as a child and what they had told me in my teaching classes at school. I had never actually tried to teach a child anything before. I listened to the people presenting, all just a little older than myself, and found it interesting, even compelling. They were very passionate and fun, and gave a great presentation full of wonderful sounding new ideas. I left the sessions with my open and impressionable mind ready to try any of these new methods.
I was soon fascinated and quickly redirected by the reactions of my teammates. We gathered together later that afternoon in one of our fourth grade classrooms, and I heard them questioning why in the world people with so little experience were knocking the methods they had relied upon for two or three decades. These ladies each took twenty-five children, year after year, and taught them to read, write, and think. They had also raised their own children from infancy to adulthood, and knew that you can’t just give children free reign over every decision. Well, not without coming out with some really confused and difficult, oftentimes profoundly unhappy, people.
One of my favorite authors, GK Chesterton, once suggested that it is a very foolish thing to remove a fence before you inquire why the fence was put there in the first place. You might soon find, hopefully before it was too late, that the fence was put there by a kindly farmer who hoped to protect people from his large and angry bull.
From the vantage point of thirty years later, I am sad to realize that many other teachers and educators of that era must not have had the benefit of experienced and wiser people to guide the way. Not just in the realm of education, but it seems that our whole culture has embraced the idea of scorning and ridiculing TTWWADI and removing a lot of fences that were put there for very good reason.
The core of the matter is a difference in worldview. People with a distinctly Christian worldview founded and shaped this nation, and our laws and institutions reflect this fact. Our education system was founded and formed under this Judaeo-Christian way of viewing the world and people. Our standard for life and morality is the living and active Word of God. Those of us, then and now, who believe in God and trust His Word believe that every person starts out with a sinful nature, and needs to be shaped and molded by people who love and value that young life and mind. We all need to be diligently instructed and reminded and disciplined and taught how to bring order into life, in order to live a healthy and productive life as an adult. We further know to be true that without diligent shaping, each person runs the risk of giving entirely into their sinful predisposition and potentially becoming a supremely selfish and lazy person. We believe that it is not kind to leave kids to fend for themselves.
The other side of today’s culture does not start from a Biblical view at all; conversely, they believe that man, while somehow an accident of nature, is inherently good and ought not be stifled in any way. They think that it is cruel to impose any set of values or beliefs onto anyone else. The foundation for what is true and right is based on people's feelings and on public consensus, not on anything fixed. Some believe in a god and some don’t; some believe in life after death and some don’t. But this all comes together to make a new, secular religion, and involves a fundamentally different view of life and eternity than Christianity.
This radical difference in worldview impacts every part of modern society. As Christians, we have to take extra care not to let our secular society and its way of thinking shape our values and actions. We don’t want to throw away the fences that we know were put there to keep everyone safe and healthy, no matter what anyone else says. Now that I am one of the older set, I would love to spend a post or two sharing caution in areas that I have particularly noticed lately.
Now, I must pause to say that I am definitely all for improving things that need improving. I really love indoor plumbing and air conditioning. I love that women can now be educated along with men, which wasn’t always true, and still isn’t in many parts of the world. I love improvement that benefits society, and that helps everyone live a healthier and more productive life. I love anything that makes life more abundant for all. For we all have to live together in this world, regardless of worldview. There isn’t us and them - there is just us, and we are all affected by culture.
But we must realize that not every change is a good change. Progress for the sake of progressivism is not necessarily healthy. For example, while they have been amazing in many ways, personal cellphones and the constant interconnectedness they have afforded have brought some real challenges and dangers; on this everyone can agree. One that I would love to draw attention to is the modern Culture of Comment.
Compulsion to Comment
A strange evolution in our society has to do with the perception that every person must comment on everything that happens, or else that person is doing something wrong. Think about this - it has happened slowly but surely and is now a real thing. There is strong pressure on social media to comment on everything.
It started with commenting on one anothers’ pictures, at least with a like or an emoji. Then it grew to acknowledging the birthdays of all 800 of your Facebook friends. Now it has to do with commenting on sad news stories, and the deaths of public figures. And is has grown so much that now someone, somewhere is inventing special things to be commented upon. Evidently this last week included National Dog Day. I have lived fifty years and avidly love dogs, yet this is the first time I have ever heard of National Dog Day. But there is a strange tug to say something about it! If you don’t, you feel that you are being disloyal to your past, present, and future dogs, or maybe are giving the impression with your silence that you actually hate dogs. This is affecting all of us. It is exhausting and stressful and guilt-inducing to try to keep up with everything that we have to comment upon.
Worse, it is creating a new ritual for this new religion that our secular society is developing. It has to do with Denouncing Bad Things. Now, if our secular society was consistent it would admit that if you remove Biblical values in one place, you have to remove them everywhere. So secular people being offended by what the Bible calls sin is strange. Why do they even care about people doing bad things if the Bible isn’t true? But they do care. In their new religion, it is a vile offense to not publicly denounce every terrible thing that happens and every person who has done something wrong.
It is here we must be careful. We cannot let ourselves be sucked into this new religion; more, we must prayerfully consider actively going against the flow of participating in this new ritual. It is one thing to comment on a friend’s wonderful vacation picture - that is innocent and sweet and connects people in a good and healthy way. But it is another thing entirely to join in on trashing a person who has done wrong.
As Christians, we actively strive to follow the Kingdom way of life that Jesus lived and taught. His way was (and still is) radically different than what the world comes up with...
-The world says we are against each other; every man for himself.
-The world says take what you can get, no matter who it hurts or what it costs.
-The world says make yourself look good, even and especially at the expense of your neighbor.
-But Jesus says love your neighbor as yourself.
-Jesus says giving is much better than taking.
-Jesus says do unto others as you would like them to do unto you.
There is not one person who wants their own sin to be publicly ridiculed and shamed; those of us who follow Jesus must remember this and act accordingly.
Jesus taught about Denouncing Bad Things. We can read about it Matthew 18:15-17...
“If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’ If they still refuse to listen, tell it to the church; and if they refuse to listen even to the church, treat them as you would a pagan or a tax collector.“
As Christians, we believe that sin is real, and is what separates each of us from our loving Creator and Father. It is something that affects every person, and it is devastating. The consequences of sin ruin families and break hearts, and nothing about it is funny or lighthearted. In fact, sin is the saddest thing in the world, and our hearts are so heavy when we hear of a Christian brother or sister who falls into a terrible abyss of sin.
But we also believe that Jesus came to save us from our sin, and to cover our guilt and shame. He graciously meets us as we come to Him to repent of our sin and accept His grace. Though He is the One person who could without being a hypocrite, He would never broadcast any of our sins for the world to see and gloat over. He meets everyone who is repentant with forgiveness - be they a liar, an adulterer, a murderer, an embezzler, a slanderer, or anything in between. He teaches us to deal with sin in our own communities in a gracious and loving way. The hope and goal is always for the restoration of a soul. The way of Jesus is never to make ourselves feel better by pointing out that we were not the ones who did something bad, or trying to fool ourselves into believing that we could never do anything wrong.
It must be noted that it is terrible when anyone sins, but it is truly devastating when a church leader sins. Everyone who enters into ministry understands that we will be held to a higher standard by God Himself, and that we must diligently strive to live holy lives. The devil knows that when he can trap a church leader into choosing sin, it does maximum damage. The people who represent God to people must represent Him rightly. The Apostle Paul wrote to his disciple Timothy, instructing what to do when a church leader fell into sin. “Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. But those elders who are sinning you are to reprove before everyone, so that the others may take warning.” Every Christian denomination and community has practices and procedures for doing this, and these are to be diligently followed when the occasion arises, otherwise we have compromised everything we hold to be true. Nothing is to be winked at or swept under the rug; rather it is to be treated with utmost sobriety and severity, and ministerial credentials relinquished. Still, the public address occurs among the people that the leader led. The circle of confession ought to be proportional with the circle of offense. This is God’s gracious way.
Our nation is still Christian in its laws. People who do evil things have to bear the consequences of their actions, and this is a sacred thing. Our legal system recognizes the Biblical truth that what we do and don’t do really matters, both now and for eternity, and we should all be mindful of that. But there is nothing Christian in taking to social media to name and shame those who have fallen, be they inside or outside the church.
Our secular friends and neighbors may not agree or understand. But our great leader, Jesus, has clearly instructed us on His thoughts in this matter, and asks us to represent Him rightly to a watching world. Let’s cling to that truth, and prayerfully consider bowing out of this dangerous part of the modern comment section.
For further study, please read John 8:1-11 to see what Jesus Himself did when pressured to join an angry and denouncing crowd.
Hi! I'm Mary - mother to two wonderful grown daughters, wife to an incredible husband, and loving our life in the piney woods of Texas... (read more!)
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