Sunday, 26 July 2020

Principle 15 - Demonstrate forgiveness and seek repentance in students as hearts are trained.

Forgiveness and repentance are central themes within the Bible from Genesis to Exodus, and are just two of the human qualities that should characterize the life of a Christian, and also mark the Christian school and classroom out as different. As such, the willingness of students to repent of wrong actions and behavior, as well as the preparedness of others to forgive them, are two key ways in which students are shaped and godly character developed.


One of my favourite quotes from German Philosopher Martin Buber comes from 'Between Man and Man', where he suggests that "Education worthy of its name is essentially education of character." And of course, the pedagogy that is essential for the development of ‘true’ character, is one that is grounded in an understanding of God's purposes for us as his unique creatures. The Bible teaches us that as we are made “… in His own image” (Genesis 1:27), our character is meant to reflect God's nature, and be shaped as we relate to him and also to others. God made us for communion.

If you revisit my framework for Christian pedagogy, you will see that my twenty principles are framed by three key biblical truths. Each of these speak of the nature implanted in us by our God. It is this nature that separates us from all other creatures. God made us as creatures who are:


Made to learn, and

Made for communion.

My fourteen previous principles have reflected the first two aspects of our character that reflect the nature of our God. We now turn to consider what education might look like once we have given serious thought to this third aspect of character. We were made by God for communion. So, the last six principles in my pedagogical framework, are all concerned with how students and staff in schools and classrooms, demonstrate rich communion with one another shaped by our faith, trust in, and communion with God.

Principle 15 is a first principle for shaping a pedagogy that reflects God's character and his teaching. It is also one that is foundational for the building of the rich fellowship and community discussed above. We are to create classrooms where as teachers we:

"Demonstrate forgiveness and seek repentance in students as hearts are trained.”

As well, we seek to create classrooms where students demonstrate that they too can be repentant and also forgive others. This principle should be a critical part of life within Christian schools. Our classrooms are to be places where forgiveness is readily offered and repentance is demonstrated. For the Bible teaches that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:23), and one day will face judgment (Matt 12:36; John16:8; 2 Cor 5:10). Hence, schools should be places where forgiveness and repentance are part of daily life. So, we need to ask ourselves as teachers, how do we articulate and demonstrate these key aspects of the character of believers, who know they fall short of the expectations of God? Are our classrooms places that demonstrate students and their teachers understand that all are in need of forgiveness and redemption?

But how do we demonstrate such aspects of character? In my book - ‘Pedagogy and Education forLife’ - I include a number of case studies that help teachers and students to discuss just how school and class communities can be places that demonstrate such biblical qualities. Some of life’s greatest lessons occur in the midst of disappointments and failure. School communities centred on a biblical understanding of personhood, will deal with disappointment, failure, and distress in a different way. How well teachers deal with such failures in their students is critical, for every event of this kind is an opportunity for student learning and growth. Teachers are to set strong examples as people who can model how broken relationships can be restored, forgiveness offered and restitution made. An important part of the teacher’s role, requires a willingness to train and encourage students to forgive one another.

In my next post, I will deal with Principle 16 ‘Does my classroom model and promote self-sacrifice and generosity?’ 

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