Did you intend to make public school your niche in the writing world or did it just happen slowly, over time, as you guys have lived in your neighborhood?
I responded with a thousand words that sounded something like this:
Heck no. If I were looking to hone in on a niche of writing I would most definitely have not chosen a topic that creates a firestorm of controversy among Evangelicals everywhere, illuminates just how ill-equipped I really am to engage in thoughtful conversation where stats, facts, and policies are involved, or makes me lose an average of fifteen followers every time I write the words public school.
Because if I am going to be straight up honest with you, the LAST thing I want to write about is public school. I don’t want the controversy. I don’t want to be confronted with my flesh’s desire to defend Jesus. I don’t want to retell our story our of seven years of homeschooling before our venture into Title 1 public schooling in the ‘hood. I don’t want to get 28 responses that explain all the reasons why public school is not right for everyone or the 97 responses gently reminding me that not everyone is called to public school. I don’t want to talk pros and cons and weigh benefits to only land on the truth that blows our educated minds into a whole other realm of kingdom thinking where nothing makes sense.
I don’t want to step on the toes of good people that I love by suggesting an upside down kingdom narrative that tells the story of one nation, under God who chose to lay down ALL their lives for the sake of one generation caught in the trappings of poverty, failing schools, and hopelessness.
And I don’t want to risk losing you guys by suggesting that the most loving and most Gospel-centric thing we can do for our communities is spend the next twenty years of our lives infiltrating our entire public school system with our children, our resources, and our time.
But here’s the thing. I cannot escape the reality that we’re a nation covered in band-aids because we have tried to throw money and programs at people and their problems from the safety net of our man-made Christian culture, never considering that Jesus modeled another way.
Jesus entered into the suffering of others in order to uncover the root cause of their need and then He moved swiftly to meet it.
If we could stop the fund raising and the check writing and the shoe box packing and the one-hour-once-a-week mentoring and the backpack buddying and the maxi-pad driving and the Good News clubbing long enough to get our heads and hearts and eyes above the fray of good deeds, maybe we’d see that all our good deeds aren’t dealing with the root causes of our broken school system.
Sometimes, our good deeds, when not done out of a loving relationship with a real person, are only temporarily easing the guilt we feel when the Holy Spirit moves us to lay down our life for our neighbors and we choose to preserve self and give the lesser offering of time, money, or services.
Maybe the root of all our problems is the Church’s misunderstanding of what the Great Commandment means. Maybe we just don’t understand what loving our neighbors like we love ourselves really means.
Or maybe we completely get it, but we don’t really believe that it applies when our obedience to it requires our life, liberty, and pursuit of our family’s education.
Maybe we don’t really believe that Jesus would have the audacity to ask us to love our neighbors as ourselves by fighting the good fight for quality education for all His kids while INSIDE the public school system. Maybe we don’t really believe that loving our neighbors looks like living wholeheartedly alongside the least among us to the degree that one cannot see where poverty begins and privilege ends. Maybe we don’t believe that loving our neighbors means that our wealth should look more like a common purse with everyone receiving equal access to our Father’s riches. Maybe we don’t believe that loving our neighbors looks like laying down our personal preference for the good of the whole.
And maybe we don’t believe that Jesus would ask us to love our neighbors like He loves us if the love required means we are asked to give up our seat of privilege in the kingdom we’ve made to give our kids a bigger portion of God’s wealth and enter, with our children, into the suffering happening in OUR public school system.
Because deep down in our souls, we sincerely believe that God cares more about us preserving a remnant of Christian culture in American than He does about us risking our culture to give His America, Christ.
It’s easier to skew the Great Commandment to fit our Westernized Christianity than it is to use our minds and imagine a kingdom here on earth where Christians are known by their sacrificial living and dying for their neighbors.
Our finite minds cannot comprehend that an infinite God would invite us to join Him in the suffering of others so that we might come to know the love required to give one’s life to save another.
But that’s what we’re called to do.
And friends, I’m telling you that Jesus is inviting the Church to give our lives for our neighbors caught in a failing public school system that we have deemed not good enough, not godly enough, and not right enough for our own children.
Our schools are on fire, and while some of us are throwing buckets of water on the flames, most of us are watching them burn to the ground, totally unaware that what happens to the least among us happens to all of us.
But Jesus is standing in the fire with the least of these.
Who are we to not join Him there?