Someone asked me recently what I would tell kids about living their faith at school.
It was a great question, beautifully framed, with the understanding that our faith is something that extends into every single part of our lives, not simply something we participate in for a few hours on Sunday or something that we selectively pick and choose parts to live by or ignore throughout the week.
Our faith is the full trust and confidence we have in the saving way of Jesus Christ that works its way out in our lives in every single circumstance.
To that end, the most important thing I would tell kids about living their faith at school is this: Live your faith without fear or embarrassment.
Our faith in Jesus Christ compels us to forgive others, to be peaceful with all people, to care for those who are ignored, oppressed, or pushed to the edges, to serve the poor, orphans and widows, to grace others with kind and encouraging words, to value all relationships, to treat others as we would want to be treated, to take a low and humble position in all we do, to not judge those whom others are judging, and to love each person as God loves us.
Those are the most beautiful expressions of life within our existence and absolutely nothing of which we should be ashamed.
It is this kind of life, this kind of light in the darkness, that needs to shine bright in our schools for all to see.
I remember when one of my daughters was in grade school and a bully was constantly mistreating one of her friends by calling her names and kicking her. Caroline asked the bully to stop and think about the feelings of the girl who she was harassing. When this did not work, Caroline stood in front of her friend and shielded her from the kicks until the bully gave up.
Caroline’s faith in Jesus was not just a mental exercise that day, but also a physical reality. She was a peacemaker that day and was willing to go to extraordinarily peaceful lengths to demonstrate the love of Christ to her friend and to her enemy.
Even you, as children, are disciples of Jesus. Following the way of Jesus is not simply a thing that adults do or that thing you begin doing when you have reached a certain age. Even now, you have been made new for a purpose. You have been given gifts, talents and abilities to use for the kingdom. You have been given a hope that is meant to be shared with others.
You will have classmates who are torn apart at home and at school with words that hurt and kill them on the inside, and you can be the one who offers a loving, encouraging and healing word.
You will have classmates who are always the last one picked or who are always at a table by themselves, and you can be the one who invites them in and joins them at the table.
You will have classmates who are struggling and see no meaning or value in life, and you can be the one who speaks to the beauty and richness of this life and the hope you have.
You will have classmates who are always ridiculed and mocked for the way they look, their social status, their race or their sexual orientation, and you can be the one who stands up for them against the accusations of others and treats them as fully loved children of God.
You will have classmates who feel alienated, misunderstood and depressed, and you can be the ear who listens to them, the shoulder they cry upon, and the welcome hand that invites them into loving community.
You will have classmates who appear to have everything (the best clothes, the most popular friends, the best-looking boyfriend or girlfriend, tons of academic or athletic achievement) but who are searching for a reason to live, and you can be the one who shares about the wholeness and completeness you have found in Jesus Christ.
When there is so much in our world, our communities, our schools, our homes and our individual lives that divides us, dehumanizes us, devalues us, breaks us down and tears us apart, there is absolutely no reason to be fearful or embarrassed about the forgiving, merciful, graceful, healing, peaceful and loving way of Jesus.
There is absolutely no reason to be fearful or embarrassed about caring for others, praying for those who are hurting and offering hope to others. There is absolutely no reason to be fearful or embarrassed about seeing the beauty in this life, the necessity of whole and healed relationships, and the value of every human life.
Jesus said that he came to give this world life and life to the fullest. You are a unique and magnificent extension and expression of this life to the fullest. Immerse yourself in this wonderful life that God has given you … and share it with everyone, every moment of the day without fear or embarrassment.
Columbus’ Brandon Andress is a former local church leader and a contributor to the online Outside the Walls blog. He can be reached at his website andthentheendwillcome.com or brandonandress.com.