A Tale of Two Cities
“We are a ‘tale of two cities’, just as the history of the world is a tale of two cities. There is the lofty city of man, which is society based on pride and self-promotion and therefore is a place of exhaustion and oppression. There is also the strong city of God, which is society based on service to God and others and therefore is a place of joy and justice. Our job is to spread the heavenly city within the earthly city.” Tim Keller
As Keller’s quote implies, as a school we are not called to be isolationists with a view that we should withdraw into an arena of similar thought where we are never challenged to defend our thoughts and actions. Rather, we are drawn together as a school to prepare our students for the lies and deceptions that Satan will use to get them sidetracked and defeated. We exist in order to prepare them to go into the earthly city as carriers of the good news.
Yet, we often have a tendency to try to live in the ‘suburbs’ of the two cities (perhaps on the county line?) and don’t claim citizenship in either. We are attracted to the lights of the Godly city, but satisfied by the consumption of the earthly one. Dualism is rampant in the culture and in Church.
By nature of our profession of faith as Christians, we have ex-communicated ourselves from the inheritance due us as citizens of the city of man for the glory of our adoption as citizens of the city of the new covenant. Of course, this has been done for us by God’s Grace, so we have no justification to claim citizenship rights on our own. But that does not mean that we don’t take ‘field trips,’ work in, or pay taxes in the old town.
When we attempt to isolate ourselves, even from the evil things that might exist, we miss the opportunity to be transformers and forget that our calling in the great commission is to go out into the world and make disciples. We cling to the ‘strong city of God’ and to the precepts that He has given us through His Word. Yet, the temptation is for us to withdraw from ‘outside’ influence. It is easy to become distracted and satisfy our fleshly need for comfort by becoming settlers and not pioneers. We should not forget that our calling as Christians, and ultimately as a Christian school, is to be transformers of culture with God’s truth.
When we try in our own power to forge ahead in God’s work with worldly ideals and strength, we are sure to fail. Along the way, we may frustrate ourselves and others with our own purposeful ideals, which sound wonderful and make us feel noble, but may not be within the context of God’s will.
I am convinced that much of my personal and professional frustration in living out this life in the ministry of a Christian school is that it is far too easy to fall into the trap of setting ourselves up as ‘promoters of conformity’ and not ‘transformers of society.’ We need, as Andy Stanley says, to ‘make a difference’ not simply ‘make a point.’ It is much easier to make a point with youngsters than it is to invest and make a difference. Difference-making is difficult and sometimes dirty labor.
Faith and wisdom teach us that we are not here for an evacuation site from the bad, sinful, cruel, and fallen world by creating a 12-year-escape to ‘Fantasy Island’ for a family, but rather we are in reality a dozen years of the boot camp experience of Parris Island for training in real Truth for that student. (And the physical training and toll is just as taxing!)
The ‘business’ we are in is education; but if we simply ‘do school’ in a fashion similar to that of the secular with the only difference being prayer, some Bible study, and chapel, we are totally missing the mark of our purpose. In taking the ‘Parris Island’ approach, we must recognize that our mission should be to train our ‘soldiers’ in all of the enemy tactics, pitfalls and traps and to give them the tools to gain wisdom that will enable them to discern for themselves the navigation to victory in a world that hates the God we serve. And every mistake, misdeed, or failed behavioral or academic test creates for us an opportunity for training and re-tooling.
The difference in the mission and vision of our school is that we must view the daily investment and sacrifice our staff and parents makes in the lives of our students, not only in the context of the present, but for eternal glory. We must not allow this world’s dualistic and materialistic approach nor its sometimes perverted sense of hope and justice to make the determination of what matters in this life. It is easy to get sidetracked and become disillusioned. Jesus is real; and His love is the only hope we all have. And we are the hands and feet of Jesus’ love. Yet we are not above the fray nor exempt from the pain of sin in this world.
Welcome to the boot camp from which you will never graduate as a parent. It’s a tough battle, but the beautiful part of this story that we live is that we have been able to read ahead and we know the end: Jesus Wins!