Jesus the Teacher: Your Faith is Showing

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At the Voorhees campus, Pastor Jeff Bills explored how Jesus, in what has become known as the Sermon on the Mount, informed the crowds who had gathered that just hitting the bar when it came to being people of God was no longer good enough. You’re not a murderer? Well, OK, but if you let anger get the best of you, you are not helping to spread the kingdom of God. You honor your marriage vows by not cheating on your spouse? OK, but do you ever lust after someone else? Jesus told the astounded crowds this was just as bad.

In discussing Jesus’ startling admonitions, Pastor Jeff touched on verbal abuse, especially how social media has become an outlet where individuals feel uninhibited to post negative, often blistering, comments about other people or organizations, comments they would never dare say in public or to someone’s face. Jeff said we need to stress to children at an early age that they need to, as the Scripture in Matthew 7:12 advises, treat others the way they would like to be treated.

As a child born with facial birth defects, I often was the subject of taunts or shunning in grade and what we now call middle school. It was hard; I sometimes cried. But I was lucky; the nasty comments also did not define me. Long before it was so beautifully put to music in THE GREATEST SHOWMAN, my attitude was, “Hey, I don’t care if you don’t like how I look: This is me.”

As I got older, I realized a few things. First, most kids participating in the name-calling didn’t understand how cutting some of their comments really were. Many were joining in so the crowd bullying mentality would not shift to them. Also, as I found out after an incident in junior high, when a friend said, “If you don’t give a list of names to the teacher, I will,” parents are often not aware of what their kids are doing or saying in school. When I did reluctantly say who had been harassing me in class (stealing and ripping up my homework, breaking my pencil, etc.), the principal, to my trepidation (I thought my school life was going to get considerably worse after I “squealed”), called all those kids and their parents into a meeting. The parents were horrified, especially the one who was a doctor. The next day at school, each of those kids came up one by one and apologized. I even became good friends with a few of them down the road.

So, here’s my point: If you are a parent, ask questions about your children’s classmates. Maybe ask their teachers if there are any with special needs. Don’t just give your kids the token “Be nice to everyone” lecture. Go deeper. Encourage them to befriend those who may be sitting alone at lunch or who don’t seem to have many—or any—friends. Explain to them why it’s important to not stand by and let other students make fun of kids who look different or act different. Your child may be too young or not have the self-confidence to intervene, but he or she can make sure a teacher knows and also find a time later to reach out to the child being targeted.

By showing kindness to those who society deems as less worthy and standing up to those who feel this way, we can work to bring God’s kingdom on Earth a little closer to fruition.

- Lauree Padgett


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