Yesterday I explained how simply not grumbling, complaining and questioning is a way to shine as a light in a dark world since such behavior is so contrary to what the world finds normal and expected.
Immediately after the instruction not to grumble or question Paul says that believers are to behave that way in order to be blameless and innocent. Of course believers do not lose their sin nature and we do not stop sinning after being born again. However, our sin nature should be continually put to death through daily decisions to live a God-honoring life. This requires moment-by-moment decisions; it is not something that happens once and is done.
The point that Paul is making, I believe, is that if we grumble and complain–in other words, if we act just like the word–there will be no effectiveness to our testimony or our witness. When we act like the world we are providing grounds for unbelievers to “blame” us. They can rightly point to our behavior and identify the contradiction between what we are saying with our mouths and how we are living our lives. There will be a disconnect between our talk and our walk. And as we all know, people pay much more attention to, and are much more impacted by, what we do than what we say.
Will we ever be innocent? Of course not. Not during this life time. But we should live our lives in such a way that when unbelievers are looking for glaring contradictions in our lives between our talk and our walk they will not be able to legitimately identify any. This means, of course, that when we do mess up (and we will) that we confess our shortcomings. We need to take ownership of our mistakes, apologize to those we wrong, and acknowledge when we fall short. This is almost unheard of in the world, too, because this behavior is also contrary to sin nature.
Paul goes on to say that we are to be blameless and innocent “in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation.” As wicked as our world is today, it was just as wicked when Paul was writing to the church in Philippi. While I may be in the minority, I have never been a believer in the idea that it is much harder to grow up today than ever before or much harder to live for the Lord now than it used to be. Have there been times in our nation’s history when God-honoring behavior was more the norm and more culturally expected that it is now? Yes, probably so. But the same possibilities for sin existed then that exist now, albeit in different forms. Ever since Eve, and then Adam, ate of the fruit in the garden, every generation has been “crooked and perverse.” When we read about Noah we read that the behavior of man was so wicked and evil that God regretted having made man. It was so bad that He decided to wipe out all but eight people on the earth and start all over.
Back to what this means in terms of training students, though, it means that teachers and staff members at the school must model for the students the kind of life that Scripture calls believers to live. Teachers must not grumble or question, even when they want to. Teaching is tough. Anyone who has ever worked with children for any length of time (their own or someone else’s) knows that eventually the patience of even the most calm and easy going person will be tried. How do we act then? Teachers and staff members must also model acknowledging wrongs and asking for forgiveness. There was a time when it was considered a huge sign of weakness for an adult to apologize to or admit a mistake to a child. In some circles that is still true. But what Paul is instructing us to do is, of course, contrary to human wisdom. When a teacher loses his or her cool in the classroom, or in any other way demonstrates behavior not consistent with Paul’s exhortation to be blameless and innocent, appropriate actions must be taken.
Next, teachers and staff members must expect this kind of behavior from the students in the school. Teachers must teach students how to behave in this manner, through words and actions, and then provide opportunity for them to do so. That means teaching students how to identify a wrong, how to acknowledge it, and how to seek forgiveness for it–from the offended person(s) and from the Lord.
Training students to shine as lights in our world goes beyond what I have described here. It includes preparing students to present an effective defense of the Bible, to proactively witness to the unbelievers around them, and to actively oppose evil in our world. But these things come later. The foundation to those things is personal choices and actions. So training students to shine as lights in our world begins right in the school with the relationships between students and teachers.