Why everyone’s a teacher

When you were growing up, did you have a favorite teacher?  Maybe a coach?  I’d be willing to bet that even if you didn’t like school, you still found one or two teachers that you could look up to or relate to more than others.

I’ve had several, but one of them is a woman by the name of Mrs. Lemkhul, my art teacher while a student at Boonsboro High.  I suspect not many know this about me, but my original background—even before chemistry—was in studio art.  And it was in Mrs. Lemkhul’s classes that she emphasized “learning to see,” meaning that rather than draw what we thought we saw we drew what we actually saw.

I suspect that if we pause and think about the teachers that we’ve loved the most, this would be their common thread.  Through their instruction we learned more than just sets of information or more than just how to play the game better.  The greatest of our teachers changed the way we see the world.  They broadened our horizons, if you’ll pardon the cliché, and pushed us to walk towards them.

Every one of us is a learner.  And every one of us is a teacher.  Granted, not all of us is a teacher in a vocational sense.  And the Bible even cautions that “not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1).  But as we emphasized on Tuesday, the life of a learner is about seeing, doing, and teaching.  Yesterday we focused on the powerful role that “doing” occupies in the Christian life—that is, the way that our habits influence our character.

What about teaching?  You might shudder at the thought.  Maybe you’re worried you just don’t know enough.  Maybe even interacting with your own kids makes you sweat bullets. But teaching others is a Biblical practice and actually a rich blessing.

TEACHING AND DISCIPLESHIP

First, let’s be clear.  You’re a teacher.  You influence people around you.  If you’re a parent—especially a father—you of all people have a role in training your children to understand God and his world.  And, not to belabor the point, you’re going to do that in ways that are positive or ways that are negative. There’s no middle ground.

As a negative example,  in the book of Proverbs we read:

Make no friendship with a man given to anger,
nor go with a wrathful man,
25 lest you learn his ways
and entangle yourself in a snare. (Proverbs 22:24-25)

So here we learn (1) that we should avoid angry people because (2) anger is contagious and destructive.  Ok.  So what about the people around you?  What about your kids?  Do they see anger in you?  Do they see you yelling at the TV during political debates?  Do they hear you muttering when you get cut off in traffic?  Is your temper really your greatest legacy?

If we can return to Deuteronomy, we find that God’s people are commanded to be teachers by inviting God’s word into every aspect of their lives and their homes:

“Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates. (Deuteronomy 6:4-9)

Remember what we learned a while ago?  The human brain doesn’t learn information like a sponge soaking up water; it’s more like pouring something into a blender with the lid off.  Information splatters everywhere.  The learning process is about learning to make connections between those chopped-up pieces of information so that we learn to see the whole picture.

Something is at work here, only it’s related to the task of teachers particularly in the family.  Teaching isn’t always adding new information to the blender of a child’s head.  It’s often about helping them put the pieces together, to show them how what they learned in Church on Sunday impacts their life on the playground.

TEACHING AND MISSION

Christ’s followers are also called to be teachers as they serve on mission.  Consider Jesus’ last words to his disciples in Matthew’s gospel:

19 Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in[a] the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matthew 28:19-20)

The message of God cannot be divorced from the mission of God.  To share the gospel is to be a teacher, because sharing the gospel means that we pass on the facts of the “good news” to those who have never heard it (or at least not believed it) and share how it’s impacted our lives.

IT’S EASIER THAN YOU THINK

I get it. It’s hard to call yourself a “teacher.”  The whole thing seems overwhelming.  Only, the thing is, it’s not.

I mean, all of you have passions.  All of you have interests.  What can you do to “write God’s word on your doorposts,” so to speak?  That is, what can you do to bring God’s truth into the everyday?  If you’re a dad, maybe it means spending time with your kids in the garage, or the woodshop, or the tree-stand while you’re hunting deer.  Don’t you think it would be easy to lean over and tell your kid, “The earth is the Lord’s, and everything in it” (Psalm 24:1, NIV)?  You don’t need a seminary background to at least start making connections between the world you inhabit and the world of God’s story.

Even grownups can be taught in a similar manner, when we begin learning how to apply God’s principles to our everyday life.  When our workplace ceases to be a paycheck but a mission field, our attitude and work ethic can be opportunities to talk about how our faith motivates us more than money.

So be a teacher.  Share how God has been a significant part of your life’s journey.  Help those around you see God not just as a character in a book we read on Sundays, but a vital part of each and every day.

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