“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and first commandment.
And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.”
Some time ago (actually quite a long time ago) I was taken to task for referring to the The Great Commandment (see above) as “Chrisitianity for Dummies”.
Given that the person who was offended by the phrase I used was of the priestly caste, and I know Jesus was having a go at the priests and lawyers who were trying to catch him out when he said this, I was never sure if the person was offended theologically or professionally.
Not that it matters.
As a school we are required to act out of a duty of care to our students. That means assessing what we do to mitigate “foreseeable risk”.
Long before there were Western legal precedents, mandatory reporting laws and WHS legislation, Jesus laid down our prime responsibilities – Love God, love one another.
The Great Commandment does not leave much “wriggle room”.
Given we have been trying to follow these commandments for centuries, we are not always successful. Take the epidemic of teenage self-harm and suicidal ideation. Here is some scary reading:
Australian Institute of Health and Welfare data: In 2020
- 381 Australian young people (aged 18–24) took their own lives
- 99 deaths by suicide occurred among children and adolescents (aged 5–17) with the majority occurring in those aged 15–17 (74% in 2020)
- deaths by suicide represented 31% of all deaths in young people aged 15–17 and 39% of all deaths in those aged 18–24—up from about one-quarter (25%) of all deaths in these age groups in 2010. In children aged 14 and below the proportion of deaths by suicide is low compared with the 2 older age groups; in 2020 deaths by suicide represented 12% of all deaths in this age group.
Research from the Queensland Family Child Commission shows that the majority of young people seek help from each other before they seek help from any adult. Obviously, they trust their peers more than the adults around them.
Is that because we adults are more likely to condemn them than to try to understand them, too happy to preach rather than listen or because we just tend to be dismissive -”It’s just a phase!”?
They are young.
They have limited life experience and feel things keenly. Sometimes what our young people may say and do can confuse, offend and worry us (e.g the current weird “mullet” hairstyle of young males and footballers is one of my current grumpy old man issues!) but their pain can be very real.
And we should try not to make things worse by our righteousness or ignorance.
“The Divine community is the model for Christians. It is not a closed community, but one-sided, reaching out and embracing.” – Anglican Diocese of Grafton.
As a school, we seek to provide a safe and nurturing place for young people. We try to help them get through the ups and downs of a young life, with care and the provision of a decent education.
And we try not to make any pain any worse (by omission or commission).
We try to hold the Gospel line in word and deed.
We provide a set of rules that respects the individual but also protects the community.
We try to show our students that the message of Jesus reaches beyond the frontiers of racial, social, economic and religious separations.
And that means that sometimes we need to take measures that make us a little uncomfortable, so that we don’t make someone’s pain worse.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.” St Francis of Assisi.
Occasionally, our school’s actions are questioned and in this questioning our approach to Christianity can also be questioned.
Occasionally I am asked if this is what I think Jesus would do. A better query might be, “What or how would Jesus have us, as His followers, live?” And that’s a question for which we have solid instruction in Scripture: Love God and show our love for one another, in word and deed.
Instead of arguing about dogmatic differences, I think our option should be to take more seriously what He has already told us to do – live as obedient disciples.
At least we should try.
“They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him. But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger.
When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone…” John 8:6.
Want to share your thoughts on this story, or do you have something you’d like to add? Email me at firstname.lastname@example.org