As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because servants do not know their master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love one another.
John 15:9–17 (TNIV)
In this very familiar passage from his last teachings to the disciples, Jesus sets out his hopes for his followers for the time when he will no longer be with them in the same flesh-and-blood way he had been with them for three years. Jesus’s command to his disciples is that they are to love one another. Note that this is a command, not a suggestion. Followers of Jesus, if they are to find favor in the eyes of God, are to love one another. That, as we know so well, is the central focus of the gospel. We are to love to the point of laying down our lives, a high standard indeed.
It is important here to look again at what Jesus might have meant by “love” in this context. A look at his life is instructive here. At every opportunity, Jesus healed the sick, fed the hungry, comforted the lonely, and encouraged those who were broken in spirit. He focused in a special way on those who were powerless and marginalized. He did not avoid conflict with the religious leaders of his day or even with his own disciples when it was necessary for him to hold them to account for their unbelief. Sometimes the conflicts Jesus found himself in resulted in his followers leaving him, and in the end those conflicts cost him his life. Love, for Jesus, was a very costly business.
So for Christian educators who are involved with students, colleagues, parents, and communities each day, what could this possibly mean? Let me suggest a number of things.
The primary task of Christian educators is to show their students the way to God, to a life filled with the presence of God. An integral part of this presence of God is the presence of the people of God. In spite of what the culture around us often tells us, we cannot live alone. We were created to live in community. In those communities, Jesus says that we are to love one another. If we do not live in love with others, then, to paraphrase Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians 12, the eye will soon say to the hand: “I do not need you” and the ear will say the same to the foot. Jesus’s command to love and Paul’s teaching about the body make it very clear that we cannot do without each other. If we do not live in communities of grace and love, we will be ill equipped to serve God as we are called and invited to do.
Christian educators can make this sense of community real to each other and to students in many different ways. They can be and should be committed to doing their very best at providing excellent learning environments for their students. If they see students, colleagues, and parents as uniquely gifted people of God, they will treat these community partners with respect and honor, and they will use their gifts to encourage those around them to serve God as best they can. They will model the love and grace of God, as they have experienced it, for others, so that in our Christian communities of learning God will be praised and God’s people will be equipped to serve.
In this issue of the Christian Educators Journal, we examine the nature of communities in Christian schools. As you read through the articles and columns, ask yourself how you do contribute and how you can contribute to the growth of genuine communities in your school.