by Dr. Shane Arnold
What is a Christ Centered education? Is it an education merely shaped by Christian morality? Is it an education that simply includes Bible classes and chapel? Is it an education that focuses on loving our neighbor and caring for the poor expressed through service and mission projects?
Without a doubt, a Christian education encompasses all of that. But one thing a Christian education should be is an education patterned on the life and teachings of Christ. It sounds pretty
basic, but I find that while we emphasize the teachings of Jesus, we often do not put as much thought into following his pattern of life.
We only have one picture of Jesus as a child in the Bible, and it’s found in Luke chapter 2. This is the time when Mary and Joseph are on their way back from a trip to Jerusalem. There is a large crowd and it is, no doubt, chaotic. As they go, they realize Jesus is not with them. Thus, the panicked parents reverse course to go look for their son.
Eventually, they arrive and find him conversing with scholars in the temple. They were amazed at his insight, but his mother was terrified.
She says, “Son, why have you treated us this way? Behold your father and I have been
searching for you in great distress!” (Every parent who has ever been separated from a child in a crisis can empathize with her anger).
In his response to Mary, Jesus utters one of his most famous sayings, “Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be about my father’s business?”
And with that, they returned and Jesus was submissive to them.
Then we have the verse that describes Jesus’ formation as a child. We are simply
told He grew or increased in wisdom and stature and in favor with God and men. In this, I believe we have a pattern for a truly Christian and holistic education.
I mean, if we are going to be followers of Christ, we should follow His pattern. It's described for us in Luke 2:52. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.” That is, Jesus developed in 4 areas.
First, He increased in wisdom, which is intellectual development. Jesus learned. Jesus grew his capacity to understand things, but he grew in more ways than that. He also grew in his ability to synthesize information and apply it appropriately to the situations he faced. He developed the intellectual capacity to reason, make sound choices and good decisions. He grew intellectually.
Second, we are told he grew in stature, which is to say he grew physically. Sometimes we forget that Jesus was a carpenter. He learned to work with his hands as a skilled tradesman. He was trained to hammer, cut, measure, and build. That means his father had to give him tasks that were developmentally appropriate. As his body grew his ability to use that body grew. So, an education that is going to follow the pattern of Christ must not only focus on intellectual development, but it must also focus on physical development as students learn how to live as an embodied creature in God’s good world.
Third, we are told Jesus grew in favor with God, which simply means he grew spiritually. He grew deeper and stronger in relationship to his father. We see this throughout the life of Jesus. When he comes to make big decision, we see him pray. When he’s going to act with power, he gives praise to his father. Jesus spent time cultivating a relationship with his heavenly father, which means he devoted time and attention to growing spiritually. If we are to follow the path of Christ, and provide a holistic training and education for our children, there will be an intentional focus on growing spiritually.
Finally, it says that Jesus grew in favor with man. This means that Jesus grew socially. That is, he learned how to get along with people. He learned how to talk with people. He learned how to work with people. He learned how to live as a member of a community.
Today, this is often a neglected part of education as we assign more and more work tied to computer screens and less tied to a community. In many cases, we're losing the vital skills of developing friendships, working with people, and making our way through conflict. A truly Christian education works against this impulse by following the example of Christ. We seek to grow in our capacity to be social creatures who live as part of a local community. In other words, we help them to grow socially.
So, if we’re going to provide a truly Christian education, we must have moral instruction. We must have worship. We must care about the poor and the marginalized, but we also must be dedicated to following the pattern of Jesus. And the pattern of Jesus is a holistic training that focuses on helping students grow intellectually, physically, spiritually, and socially.
By God’s grace, that’s the kind of education we seek to provide at Christ’s Legacy Academy, and we pray that God blesses us as we seek to follow our King in His kingdom ways.