To the reader: In terms of social organization in America, sociologists today are pointing to a shift from a hierarchical to an egalitarian and individualist form of society. We’re losing, they say, the authority and order that comes from such hierarchical arrangements as teachers over students and church leaders over parishioners. In its place, Americans want the freedom that comes when institutional control becomes flattened and the individual has more freedom. But at what cost? Today’s meditation looks at what this social shift means for students.
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God’s people and members of God’s household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.
– Ephesians 2:19-22
In his recent study of students, sociologist Tim Clydesdale reports that students today are surrounded by competing truth claims, and that their professors are just one more voice among the many that they are listening to every day. “Hanging over the top of every teacher’s lectern,” says Clydesdale, “should be this question: who cares?” It is the question, often unspoken, that’s on the minds of students today. “Don’t just give us information,” say the students, “give us a reason to care about what you are saying.”
Who cares? It’s an intensely human question, and one that teachers should be ready to answer. Students face an array of compelling voices who make competing claims on their choices and beliefs. These voices say to students: believe me, touch me, taste me, listen to me, buy me. What are students to make of these competing truth claims?
While these choices suggest great freedom, they also provide a grim and potentially devastating answer to the “who cares?” question. The prevailing answer in secular culture today is that you should care for yourself, because when the chips are down, no one else will care for you. It’s all up to you.
But that, of course, is not the way of Christian schools. The Ephesians two passage gives a very different picture from one of looking out for ourselves. Here Paul describes foreigners and aliens brought together into one household. Here the picture is not one of personal searching without any ultimate authorities. Rather, in Christ, alienation is overcome as people become part of his household.
Christian schools are the academic wing of God’s household. In schools, students and teachers alike can explore the potentialities of creation and culture in their studies. They can study the profound effects of the fall into sin on people and on social structures, and they can begin to think of ways to overcome those effects. They can consider together the many competing voices in the culture and make judgments about them pro or con from within the household of faith.
In Christian schools we can find a countercultural answer to the “who cares?” question. Here caring is not self-directed; it is other-directed, even as Christ cares for us. Who are we? We are the ones who belong, who are a part of something that is bigger than ourselves. In Christ, we are not our own; we’ve been bought by Christ and brought into his household.
When next you hear a student say “who cares?” in your class, you can say that Christ cares. By God’s grace, teachers can care for students as well, and for the world that they study together. And because Christ cares for students, they too can care. The Christian school is the place to answer the “who cares?” question.
Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in
due time: Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you.
– I Peter 5: 6,7