As I began to consider the start of the 2013-2014 school year, a news article crossed my desk that highlighted the importance of all that Lutheran Day-Schools are doing to supply gifts to the community and the world. According to news reports, on August 29th, police in Germany raided a family home and forcibly removed their four children. What was the “crime” that led an armed squad of 20 German police and social workers to abduct the children of an otherwise law abiding family? They chose not to send their children to the public school and instead to home school. Homeschooling is illegal in Germany. In our own country, the Supreme Court is deciding whether or not to take a case regarding the deportation of another German family who is seeking asylum in the United States because they desire to home school their children.
I don’t know whether either of these families are Christian or are seeking to instill the Christian Faith through their home school efforts. But these stories set me to thinking about the wonderful gifts to the community and the world offered by Christian Education and the importance of the work that Lutheran churches with day-schools do on Sunday morning and throughout the week.
In 2 Timothy 3, St. Paul says that the Word of God makes us “complete” and “equipped for every good work.” While non-Christians can make an impact for society, they can relieve suffering, help their neighbor, and even make great strides of “progress,” only the Christian can do truly “good works.”
Good works are the works done
by those who have been regenerated by the Holy Spirit.
Good works are the fruit of the trees made good by the power of God working through His Word and Sacraments. On Sunday morning, as we gather, God is at work giving us His Spirit to restore, renew and strengthen us in our faith in Christ. It is His Spirit that renews our heart and our minds and make us willing instruments for good in the world.
By supporting the Office of the Ministry, members of Lutheran churches are instrumental in providing the means by which God sends His Holy Spirit to work in their congregation and communities. Through the Word and the Sacraments, God sends His Spirit to work faith and bestow His gifts of forgiveness, life and salvation to those who hear the Gospel. But when a Lutheran Church has a day-school, their impact on the community and in the world doesn’t end there.
Through the work of the day school, a congregation is instrumental in raising up citizens for their community, our nation and our world who are “complete, equipped for every good work.”
We do not know how God will choose to use our students in the future. It is important, therefore, that they are well grounded in the knowledge and skills necessary to be useful citizens in our community, our country, and the world. But it is much more than “reading, writing, and arithmetic.” Preparation for godly service to the world doesn’t end with firm knowledge of science, history, technology or physical education. The fact is, the devil can use all these practical things and such knowledge and skills can be used for evil as well as for good.
This is what makes Christian education is entirely different from the education received at a secular school. While there are many fine educators and even many fine Christians serving in our public schools, they are restricted from providing those things that are most needful to raise our children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). What’s more, public secular schools are forced to teach myths, legends, and the imagination of men as unquestionable fact while undermining confidence in the Truth and undercutting faith in Christ.
In order to be a fully productive individual who knowingly and willingly accomplishes the will of God, what is really important is that the one who has knowledge and skill also has the Holy Spirit and faith. “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13). “We are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them” (Ephesians 2:10). Therefore, the teachers and staff at our Lutheran Schools work diligently to acquaint the children entrusted to our care with the sacred scriptures, because these “are able to instruct [them] for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 4:17).
Those who are firmly grounded in their faith and trust in Christ have no need to make excuses or deny the truth in order to maintain the illusion of “self-esteem.” Instead, they can acknowledge their failures and sins and rest confidently in the assurance that in Christ they have full forgiveness and peace with God. Knowing God’s mercy, they are also equipped to share the peace of God’s salvation in Christ with those around them as salt and light in the world.
Through our schools, we not only give the gift of faith to our students, but we give our students as gifts to the world as they live their lives in loving service to others. Freed by the Gospel and assured of their forgiveness and salvation, our students are prepared to love and serve their neighbor using their knowledge and skills in the best way possible. They are emboldened to give selflessly in loving service to their community and the world without regard for the personal cost because they know and trust that God will supply all their needs according to His riches in Christ (Philippians 4:19).
As a product of public education now called to serve in public ministry, I see the inherent value in our Lutheran Schools. It is simply not possible to “supplement” a public school education enough to make up the difference.
That is not to say that parents who choose not to send their child to a Lutheran School are “wrong” for doing so. They are not. However, the fact is that children who attend public school are at a disadvantage in their faith development. They are put at greater risk because they are faced with struggles, temptations and assaults on their faith without the support, encouragement and strength provided by regular exposure to God’s Spirit working through His Word. Therefore, they are at risk of being less effective tools for the Kingdom of God and service to their neighbor.
The commitment to providing a Christ-centered education for the members of our congregation as well as making it available to their community at large is a wonderful gift given by many of our Lutheran congregations. It is a gift not only to the members of the congregation and to the individuals and families served within the community. But through these efforts, our churches are bestowing innumerable blessings on their local communities and the world. Motivated by the love of God, our students go forth loving and serving their neighbor as they live this life continuing in what they have learned and have firmly believed, being acquainted with the sacred Scriptures which are able to instruct them for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus and equip them for every good work.
May God bless and preserve us so that we may continue this important work.