by Mark Jakowski, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Education
Welcome to the first edition of the V.O.I.C.E. Journal. One of the seminal components of this journal is discerning teacher education and practice using a biblical lens. Each edition will include discussion of how the articles in that edition represent a biblical theme. It is my honor to do so for this first edition.
During the summer of 2014 my brother-in-law, Evan Griffin, and I discussed the ministry model he uses to build into the lives of college students on the campus of The University of Cincinnati. He shared the paradigm of “Experience the Good News, Be the Good News, Share the Good News.” I would like to borrow from this model in order to conceptualize a biblical worldview as presented by the articles in this inaugural edition of the V.O.I.C.E Journal.
The essence of this model is that those who experience the Good News of Jesus Christ have their needs met in such a way that they are able to love or be the Good News to others. II Corinthians 1:3,4 tells us, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” (New International Version). As our needs are met by God, we are able to be a vessel in which God is able to meet the needs of others. In essence we are able to be the Good News to others. As others see our love and hope, among other fruits of the Spirit, they may be curious as to why we live in such a way. Jesus says, “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34,35). Paul tells us to be prepared to share why we seem to be living such hopeful lives, “Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect,” (I Peter 3:15b). It is a beautiful cycle. We experience Jesus, we are able to imitate Jesus and love others the way he does, and we are called to be able to point to Jesus as to why we live the way we do. Then others have the opportunity to experience Jesus (The Good News), and the cycle continues.
Although experiencing, being, and sharing the Good News can tend to be simultaneous, I believe that the order of these three actions is extremely important. We do not have a solid platform to share the Good News if we are not being the Good News to those with whom we share. We cannot be the Good News if we do not experience the Good News. Our culture has become very savvy at distinguishing between those who “act” kindly because they have to or because they have an agenda, and those who are being genuinely kind. In order to genuinely love others on a consistent basis, we must be experiencing the good news on a daily basis. It is just not in our nature to be consistently loving or kind to others. We have our moments because we are created in the image of God, but humanity has chosen their own way (Isaiah 53:6), which manifests itself in self-protection and self-service, even in the mist of our good deeds. Genuine and consistent love and kindness begins with actually experiencing the Good News.
After 30 years of walking with Christ, I am just scratching the surface regarding what this means in my own life. We have all heard the saying, “What do you want to hear first, the good news or the bad news?” During the spring of 2015, I asked some of my students, who were in a scripture memory group with me, “If you were to share the Good News, whatever that means to you, to someone who did not know the Bible or church lingo that well, how would you do it?” One student wisely replied, “I guess I would start from the beginning.” If we start at the beginning, the Gospel can be seen as a good news-bad news-good news proposition. The first good news is that we were created to have a deep, personal relationship with the Creator. When humans were created they wanted for nothing as God concluded it was “very good” (Genesis 1:31a). They were unencumbered from having to decide right from wrong except to abstain from eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God said, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die” (Genesis 2:16b). Adam and Eve were given many “goods” (tend the garden, be fruitful and multiply, etc.) and only one bad (do not eat from the tree). There is only one bad thing they could do and the rest was “all good.” Imagine, the first humans only had one decision to make regarding good from bad! Either eat from the tree or abstain. “Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Genesis 2:25). They did not have to decide, among other things, whether wearing clothes was good or bad. There was no scenario where Eve would say, “Adam, do you think the Lord will think this dress is too revealing?”
The bad news is that humanity decided that they wanted to choose for themselves what was good and bad (right and wrong) and not allow God to have that sole responsibility. So even though God warned them that there would be grave consequences in doing so, Adam and Eve chose to eat from the tree. The book of Genesis is riddled with stories of the fallout from that decision. History attests our predisposition to miss the mark (sin) when we try to figure out right and wrong by ourselves. The Bible tells us that one of the natural consequences of choosing to make our own determination of right and wrong (sin) is the wrath of God (Romans 6:23, Hebrews 9:27). God’s wrath has to be satisfied. Yikes, more bad news!
The good news is that instead of expressing that wrath on us, Jesus came to earth to experience that wrath in our place. Not only was God’s wrath satisfied, those who believe in Jesus have also been given a new identity, a new self (II Corinthians 5:17, Ephesians 4:22-24). We have a restored relationship with the Creator of the Universe with all that entails. This is truly the “Good News.” Experiencing the Good News is not something that happens exclusively upon our conversion. It can be a daily occurrence. One of the many ways that we can experience the good news is by reflecting on all that God has done for us and the suffering that Jesus endured for us in order to turn God’s wrath away from us and onto Him. We can also experience the Good News on a daily basis by reflecting on and believing what God says about who we now are, our new identity. Do you know that as a believer in Jesus Christ, you are God’s child (John 1:12), you are Christ’s friend (John 15:15), you are free forever from condemnation (Romans 8:1-2), you are a citizen of heaven (Philippians 3:20), you can find mercy and grace in time of need (Hebrews 4:16), and that you may be assured that all work together for good in your life (Romans 8:28)? Do you know that you are God’s temple (I Corinthians 3:16), you are God’s workmanship (Ephesians 2:10), you are salt (slowing down moral decay) and light (illuminating God’s good) on this earth (Matthew 5:13-14), and that you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you (Philippians 4:13)? Whether you believe these things to be true or not, does not change the reality that this is now, “who you are.”
During times of meditation on such things I find myself relaxing and my emotional shields lowering. My cup is filled, so to speak, and I have “overflow” to give to others by being the Good News; showing the kindness to others that Jesus has shown to me. Brothers and sister educators, both in public and private school settings, are you experiencing the Good News on a daily basis? God gives you permission to experience the Good News every day! Paul says, “Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day” (II Corinthians 4:16). The Good News renewed the apostles inwardly each day. Lamentations 3:22-23 says, “Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.” God’s compassions may be experienced anew “every” morning! Not because of something we have done but because of God’s faithfulness. The pressure is off to measure up; good news!
I pray you experience the good news through this first edition of the V.O.I.C.E. Maybe you experience the good news by taking the advice of Patty Long in the “Guest Voice Editorial,” to remember the time someone shared with you the good news. Perhaps you read about the carnival for kids with disabilities described by Jeff Beine in the “Featured Partnerships” article and experience the Good News through the expressions of joy on the faces of teacher candidates as they become the Good News for students who tend to be marginalized. Perhaps you pick up and read the book, Okay for Now, which was reviewed by Dan McKey in this edition and experience themes of forgiveness, redemption, grace, perseverance, balance and kindness, which are intended consequences of the Good News. You might be heartened by colleagues such as Kim Smith-Robbins who reminds us in “Do Not Give Up” that we should not grow weary in doing good but that we will reap a harvest for our labor (Galatians 6:9) and that if we trust in the Lord with all of our heart and lean not on our own understanding (Proverbs 3:5,6) we may experience the Good News by actually being the Good News when a student says, “Mrs. Robbins…you are back. You are not sick anymore. I missed you.” Perhaps you are emboldened by the Good News that scripture is God-breathed (II Timothy 3:16), and that although our struggle for our students is spiritual (Ephesians 6:12), God is for us, so we will prevail, as Lynette Duplain reminds us in “Leading Faith Based Schools Today: Challenges and Opportunities.”
One of the greatest advantages that we have as educators who have a personal relationship with Jesus is that we can view our students more holistically since we do not discount the spiritual aspect of student lives. This is great news for our students! We have a wonderful opportunity to affect student lives by experiencing the Good News, being the Good News, and sharing the good news. The column for each edition of the V.O.I.C.E will simply be titled, “Good News.” May you experience the Good News daily, so that, “the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms” (Ephesians 1:19,20).
Verses used in this column are taken from Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.