by Heather Bock
I was a fairly new teacher, weak in hard ball discipline and glad to teach freshmen since I didn’t look any older than the seniors. My stomach would tie itself in knots as fifth period approached. One girl in particular led that class—I had a few stress pimples caused by and named after her. I’m not sure why she had a vendetta against me, but she even led her mother in the same prejudice. Most of the rest of the class also followed suit.
I had one other similar sophomore class a few years later with a few male school-haters, and I remember one sweet girl privately apologizing for the class—too weak socially to stand up to them, but too nice to watch it happening without saying anything. Unlike my freshman class, a good turn came for me when some of the sophomore leaders ended up expelled from school for a time. In that time, there was a turnaround in the attitude. I was able to reach the hearts of those left. I’ve also had many classes where I and strong positive student leaders quickly shut down negative influences and brought about a good class attitude from the beginning.
A strong voice for good or for ill can have much power.
I hear many Christians talk about how we are a minority in America. Maybe they feel like Elijah did in I Kings 19, alone and persecuted by the majority. I sometimes feel like part of an even smaller minority, however, when I don’t want to rail against our fallen, broken culture. We can and should talk to each other about how their actions are sinful, but the people themselves don’t need judgment and hateful words. They need Jesus and His love just like I do. I would be the same as the rest of the culture without Him.
I find it incredibly uncomfortable to stand out against others and enter into the lives of those with different ideologies from my own to truly love them well. I have to push past tension when I choose to love when others are pushing away or forgive when most are shouting retribution. It takes a lot of courage. I can tell you right now that I don’t always have that kind of courage.
But what did God command His people to do over and over in the Bible? “Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go” (Joshua 1:9). What did Jesus do when religious leaders asked Him to condemn a sinner? He said, “He who is without sin among you, let him be the first to throw a stone at her” (John 8:7), and when the accusers left, He said to the woman, “I do not condemn you, either. Go. From now on sin no more” (John 8:11). God calls us to love as He does (I John 4:11) with grace and truth, and even a minority willing to stand with a voice of love can make a huge impact for good.
How do we do this? I’m still trying to figure this out myself, and I think it will look a little different for each of us. I live in a pretty homogenous slice of this world, so I have few places to enter into tension. I’ve started by loving my students from all over the world by teaching them with excellence, kindness, and respect and helping whenever I see a need. I can also speak out for love on social media. I’m not always as brave as I need to be—many times I’m more like that girl in my class whispering apologies. However, with God’s help, I hope I can someday be one of the ones consistently standing up for love, influencing others to do the same.
How about you? How are you pushing through the tension?
I have a book giveaway going on that I announced in my last blog post for the book Unashamed by Heather Davis Nelson, which I reviewed in that post. If you subscribe by email to my blog (upper right column), you will get one entry to the drawing for this book (don’t forget to check your email inbox/spam folder afterwards for verification). If you’re already a subscriber or just want more chances, you will get one entry each time you share my last post about Unashamed via Twitter, Pinterest, or Facebook. Just make sure to tag me so I know you’ve shared it. Also make sure to subscribe by email first. It’s a good book dealing with an important topic–I’m excited to give it away to one of you! I will announce the winner next Saturday.