“They’ve taken God out of public schools!”
I hear this phrase all of the time when I talk to Christians about what is going on in the world of public education and it drives me crazy.
Yes, it doesn’t sit well with me that I could be fired for praying out loud in my classroom. It upsets me that other religions seem to be tolerated so quickly in public school, while anything involving Christianity is seen as “evil.”
My heart does struggle with balancing my conviction to share Christ’s love with the world and teaching in the public school system. Yet, my call to go and make disciples of all nations doesn’t stop at my classroom doors and it isn’t put on hold in between the 8 o clock and 3:20 school bells.
You see, I am convinced that Jesus is very much alive in the public school system. God is all-powerful, all knowing, and omnipresent. He is everywhere. No matter what laws are created about what I can and cannot say and talk about with my students, God is there. He is there. Jesus is there. Jesus actively lives in the hearts of all of those who believe in Him and his love shines through us. He uses us to bring light to the darkness.
Above any call I have as a teacher, I am called to be Jesus to the world.
I work with students that truly hurt. The school I work at has a 100% poverty rate, all receiving free breakfast and lunch. My students come from places I’ve never been and they walk down roads I’ll never have to travel. As three, four, and five year olds—my students daily face a devastation that I will never know. They need hope, a place to go, somewhere to turn. They need Jesus. I wrestle with not being able to tell my students how to find Him. My heart struggles when I can’t share the words of the gospel with them.
Yet, when I feel this way and I get frustrated and worked up about laws and rights, the Holy Spirit gently whispers in my ear: “You’re a seed-planter. You’re a nurturer. I am the one who saves.”
You see, my classroom is my mission field. And my role in my classroom as a Child of God is very clear: I love, I laugh, I smile, I listen, I show compassion, I empathize, I show grace, and I live. I am to be Jesus to my students. My role in my classroom is not to share information with my class about how to become a Christian. My purpose there is to develop relationships with students who need to experience the redeeming love of Christ.
“Mission trips” are often about brining healing to the sick, feeding the poor, providing for the under-privileged, and showing the light of Christ through love. A big part of “missions” is about going out into the world for the sake of making the lives of other people better simply because that is what Jesus would do.
“Dear children, let us not love with words or speech, but with action and in truth.”—1 John 3:18
“’A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one other. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love on another.” John 13:34-35
I may not be able to impart information about Christ and salvation to my students. I may not be able to talk about what I believe in or why I believe it. I may not be able to pray out loud or read scripture over my students. However, none of that changes what Christ has called me to.
I have been called to sow love.
I get to school an hour early each morning. Yes, this means I have to wake up even earlier. However, there is something so peaceful about having time alone in my classroom; time without any students or even my teaching assistant.
It’s in that quiet time that I ask God to enter my classroom. I ask Him to make Himself known. I walk and lay hands on each student’s chair as I pray for them individually. I sit on their carpet squares and pray for open ears, open hearts, and open eyes. I often find myself in tears and on my knees each morning, not necessarily because teaching is hard (although it is), but because my heart breaks open each day for my students. I desperately pray that the small bit of education I can provide them will set the foundation for them to eventually break out of the cycle of poverty and addiction that has been set before them. And I pray each day, that they may see glimpses of the gospel in my words and actions as I seek to love them passionately. Ultimately I pray that they would come to know Christ, to love Him, and to serve Him.
My job is simply this: I teach about Christ’s love by being Christ’s love, day in and day out. I am able to plant the seeds and I trust God to do the saving.
So, I don’t believe God has been taken out of public schools at all, in fact, I think He lives in them.
I am so thankful for God’s Word and that I do live in a country in which I can openly share that Word with others. However, just because I can’t use my voice to speak that Word to my students, doesn’t mean they won’t hear the good news of the gospel in my classroom. I can share the gospel simply through loving.
For all the children who don’t know what the Bible is, who don’t know that Jesus loves them, who have parents that are beaten down by life and have failed to show them the love of Christ, I desperately and boldly pray for the loving miracle of Jesus to be made known to them in their classrooms through broken and sinful vessels of teachers, just like me.