WHERE DO WE BEGIN TO BUILD THE RELATIONAL SOCIETY – A SOCIETY BASED ON LOVE FOR GOD AND NEIGHBOUR? We have suggested that the global uproar over the Mohammed cartoons pits Moslems, demanding one set of rights, against secular liberalists defending another; while Christians watch rather nonplussed from the sidelines.
Neither the Muslim nor the secular social vision is love based, however. And therein lies the challenge for Christians to flesh out a workable alternative vision. But where to start?
Would it make sense to start where God started? When God led Israel out of Egyptian slavery, he began to teach the rabble of ragged refugees at Mt Sinai how to become a community, a society, and a nation. He gave them laws, summed up later by Jesus in the dual command to love God and neighbour.
Educated in the courts of Pharaoh, Moses was now being re-educated in a new understanding of community, society and statehood. Fundamental to this new vision were relationship, covenantal love and servant leadership.
God then stressed repeatedly to Moses what would be necessary to keep this vision alive in the future: the education of the next generation. “Impress these commandments on your children,” commanded God in the Shema, the famous prayer of Deuteronomy 6:7. “Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.” This non-formal education was the responsibility of parents and family in the first place, not teachers and politicians.
Earlier, in Genesis 18:19, God explained why he chose Abraham: to “instruct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just.” According to Jonathan Sacks in Radical then, radical now (Continuum 2000), this is the only place in the Old Testament where we are told why Abraham was chosen – because he would be a teacher.
Sack’s book has been my travelling companion at the start of a two-month sojourn in the Pacific, partly on mission business, partly on furlough. Fiji, in the South Pacific, was my first stop, where last week I joined other YWAM leaders in an outdoor tribal ceremony as chieftains presented us a 40 hectare property for the development of a University of the Nations campus.
During prayer as senior leadership of the university, we were arrested by the realisation that the command to instruct children was fundamental to a free society under the sovereignty of God.
Schools have been essential for Jewish survival through the centuries, Rabbi Sacks points out. Long before anyone else, Israel had created schools, not for an elite but as part of the normal process of initiation into adulthood. Jews developed the world’s first universal network of schools in the time of the second Temple.
Today Muslim leaders are keenly aware that schools are the prime training ground for producing shariah-based societies. Secular educationalists around the globe continue to impose their view of society on the younger generation, successfully smothering biblical values.
In Finland right now, Christian educators are battling the Minister of Education for the right to offer basic Christian education (see www.eykk.com). One hundred years ago, Abraham Kuyper successfully fought for that right, influencing Dutch education up to this day. As parents and spiritual leaders, too often we have ignored God’s instructions to make godly education of the young a high priority.
As we prayed together in Fiji, we began to realise how many of our own YWAM early childhood education projects begun years ago, no longer operated. Some still continued under separate management, but few new projects for children’s education had been started in YWAM in recent years. Our focus had been only at university level.
We were led to repent and resolve somehow to get back to the beginning.
Till next week,