One of my former students commented at the end of his time at high school that one of the strengths of his experience of Christian education was meeting teachers and students from a wide variety of denominations. I found his observation insightful. Being able to understand a wide continuum of interpretations of Scripture is paramount because the Christian community is called to unity and shalom. Having healthy conversations about the understanding of Scripture is important in building this unity.
Last week, I had the privilege to speak with the new cohort of Christian teachers that will be graduating from Redeemer University College. The question that was posed to me was, “What do you think Christian educators have to keep in mind for their career?” It was then that I thought about this former student and his observations. As Christian schools continue to grow and become more diverse in their expressions of the Christian faith, I wondered along with the education students whether being more open and hospitable, being life-long learners and excellent listeners, would hold them in good stead. It sometimes seems to me that graciousness, gracefulness, and a true posture of humility are receding in our society. Learning how to communicate, to deal with differences, and to celebrate one another even when we don’t agree is not only important but necessary.
I think a community in conflict may be the most damaging when all parties claim that God is on their side. All parties claim to be followers of Christ but have different ideas about how Scripture ought to be read or interpreted. In diverse Christian denominational circles, it can be helpful to remember that we can weigh such conflicts according to whether they are “salvation issues.” Educators are uniquely placed to help students understand that there are a variety of opinions and beliefs on certain subjects. What educators cannot do is advocate for their position or idea. In order to honour the goal of unity and shalom, we must work sensitively with families, faith communities, and a wider society in order to equip our students with ways to listen, to ask questions, and to weigh ideas and beliefs. In this way we foster knowledge, understanding, and deepening wisdom.
Differences, diversity, even disagreements, ought not to break the communion to which the apostle Paul asks us to aspire. Helping our students to hold their beliefs strongly—but also humbly—ought to be built into our learning to think critically.