One of the components of the Worldview course I teach is a study of comparative religions. It’s important to know what other people believe, especially in this shrinking world of ours. Growing up I often heard people quote I Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have…” Rarely did anyone complete the verse. Here’s how it ends: “But do this with gentleness and respect.” Gentleness and respect is important. It should never, ever, be left out. Learning what other people believe is essential to gentleness and respect.
Usually, teaching this part of the course seems more like teaching social studies than a Bible class. We talk about culture and history and sometimes even geography as we examine other faiths. This year, though, God has been teaching me very definite and important spiritual lessons as we move through this part of the class. This week we looked at Judaism.
One of the questions my students answered from our text concerned the history of Judaism. They were supposed to pick an ancient Jewish leader and explain why that person stood out to them, what they admired about their life and story. Listening to my students’ answers was a tremendous blessing. I have found these last few years that young people know less and less about literature in general. Unless the book has been made into a recent movie, students rarely get literary analogies and, even in a Christian school, I often find my students ignorant of the details of basic Bible stories. Sunday School curriculum and attendance are not what they used to be. However, this time I was very pleasantly surprised. My students had lots to say and they had great reasons for their answers.
Students talked about King David, the man after God’s own heart, and what a great example he is of faithfulness and repentance. Moses was another favorite–the way that God used a man who really would have preferred to hang out in the desert with his father-in-law’s sheep. I chose Joseph, as did several of my students. The story of Joseph has so many fascinating twists and turns as God changes him from a proud, self-righteous goody-goody into a faithful and forgiving leader used by God to save a nation and his own family from starvation. But the overwhelming favorite of the day was Abraham. Listening to my students talk about Abraham was exactly what I needed this week.
I’m in a tough place right now. On Friday I was smiling and taking attendance and moving through my day as usual, but inside my heart was breaking. This world is a hard place. People are cruel and truth is often purposely distorted. I think God might be asking me to face some big changes in my life. I am not a fan of change. Looming change makes me insecure and anxious. There are dreams lying, shattered, at my feet. It’s hard to let go of dreams, but sometimes God asks us to do it. He certainly required that of Abraham. One of my students spoke about the faith of Abraham and how, as he walked up that mountain to sacrifice Isaac in obedience to God, he had confidence that God would provide. As she said it, I knew in my heart that God was speaking directly to me. God will provide. I needed to hear that. Another student spoke of how Isaac was the result of years and years of patient waiting and belief in God’s promise, so it must have been so hard to think about offering him up, of starting all over again, with nothing. I needed that, too. Abraham believed that God would provide somehow, that He would raise Isaac up from the dead if necessary, but most of all that God, being a GOOD and LOVING God, would do what was best. Abraham believed that God could be trusted. I needed the reminder that he still can. It was difficult to control my emotions as student after student, class after class, was used by the Lord to remind me of the truth. God knows. He always knows. And underneath are the everlasting arms.
There’s an old Rich Mullins song that often comes on my playlist as I run. It’s about the boyhood years of Jesus and it poses some interesting questions. My favorite lines ask, “Did they tell you stories about the saints of old, stories about their faith? They say stories like that make a boy grow bold, stories like that make a man walk straight.” It works for women, too. Thank you, Jesus!