Do So More and More

Francis Bacon once quipped that “Religion brought forth riches, and the daughter devoured the mother.” Cotton Mather said something similar: “Religion brought forth Prosperity, and the daughter destroyed the mother.”

Long before these men articulated the notion, it was pictured in antiquity. Among countless examples, God delivered the Hebrews from slavery, and soon they were grumbling at not having enough meat to accompany their freedom.  

To be sure, it’s as old as humanity, and there are plenty of humans at ECS exemplifying the notion.

Do we have to choose between…

  • a robust culture and rigorous academics?
  • academic rigor and joy?
  • accessibility to the right families and economic solvency?
  • safety and comfort?
  • law and gospel?

It sure feels like it. It’s not easy to have an offering that features both ends of these spectrums. Yet that’s what we must do if we would advance our mission.

Giving students the right worldview but no tools to advance it is akin to quitting at the marathon’s thirteenth mile marker.

Asking our teachers to subsidize the education of their students (in the form of lower wages) and expecting them to remain with us is at best a gamble.

Aiming chiefly for students’ comfort will thwart their growth.  

Giving students as much grace as God gives us guarantees they’ll abuse it just like we do.  

Having eyes in our heads and having those heads out of the sand means we’re likely to see things we wish were not there.  But it also enables us to see geysers of blessings bursting all around.

God is blessing ECS in all sorts of intangible, supernatural, and otherwise-inexplicable ways. I don’t have space here to enumerate them all, but the list is long. It’s disturbing in only good ways. And yet, we still have a ton of work to do!

  • Our culture needs godly, wise, principled citizens, and since we cannot depend on our expensive and monolithic educational machine to produce them, we’re trying to do it here.  
  • Our students need rough handling from the hands of those who love them so they will be able to withstand the treatment of their enemies. So we explore the pitfalls of wicked ideologies versus the life-giving gospel.  
  • If our aim is generational, we must take measures now to ensure we’ll actually be around in five years (let alone a generation from now), so we make hard economic choices and invite the scrutiny of a team of other school administrators in the context of accreditation.
  • If we want our students to be lifelong learners, we work on cultivating the right loves, which is far easier said than done.  

We are not satisfied with how well we are doing in any of these areas, so we ask God for wisdom and act in faith.  

As ECS works to identify the chinks in our armor and sharpen our various cultural weapons, we thank God for your part, thank you for your patience, and request that you pray for us.  

Risus est bellum!

U.H.

Substance Worth Singing About

Christmastime comes with its own soundtrack.  Take a song, give it some sleigh bells and you’ve got a Christmas tune.  Add in a crackling yule log and some spiced cider and you have the right sort of sentiment.  

But substance trumps sentiment, which is why the Incarnation is a big deal.  

At Christmas we celebrate the actual, literal, substantive advent of Jesus.  We are not aiming for a certain sentiment unless is accompanies that substance.  The Christmas “spirit” is sentiment that is devoid of any substantive meaning if not for the actual, flesh-and-blood appearing of Jesus.

This is why secular Christmas celebrations don’t make sense.  Who cares about presents and sleigh bells and Christmas lights and warm fuzzies as ends in themselves? Not me! Feelings deceive.  But if those things accompany something of substance, that’s different. 

Presents remind us of the gift that God gave at Christmas.  We give in imitation of our giving God.

Sleigh bells alert us of good things coming our way.  Actual good things, not empty sentiments.  

Christmas lights are an echo the Light of the World coming at Christmas.  

We could go on, but signs are great, so long as they point to something real.  Signs that direct you to nowhere are unhelpful.  

The world was turned on its head when God became man.  Platonists were offended when the Logos took on corruptible flesh.  No man would have come up with this idea.  It was staggering, and it is glorious.  

My encouragement to you this Christmastime is this: be amazed.  

Be amazed by the mind-blowing reality that God would lower Himself to serve His creatures, enabling their eternal fellowship with Him.  

Be amazed that Jesus held together His own physical substance…and still does.  

Be amazed at the glories of the Incarnation, then sing about them: 

God of God, Light of Light,
Lo! he abhors not the Virgin’s womb;
Very God, Begotten not created.

O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.

At Christmas, we reject materialism while embracing the real.  The Incarnation is worth celebrating and singing about.  

Merry Christmas!

U.H.

Thanksgiving As A Defense Weapon

Surprising as it may seem, it’s November, and soon Thanksgiving will be upon us. For many of us, Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday.  When I was growing up (and considerably less thankful than I am now), I thought it was fine.  I liked food and football, I tolerated my family, and I liked that once Thanksgiving was out of the way we could move on to the real fun: Christmas.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve worked to cultivate a mindset of thankfulness, and one method I’ve employed is the routine consideration of the blessings I enjoy (i.e., lots of them) and the blessings I deserve (i.e., none of them). 

Strictly speaking, can there be a thankless Christian?  I suppose it’s possible, but it’s hard to imagine.  How can a person be mindful of his sinfulness, the holiness of God, and the atoning work of Jesus and be glib or act entitled?  I don’t think he can.  

Further, thankfulness is a potent weapon because the grateful man cannot be shaken.  He may be battered and physically beaten, he may even be discouraged, but again, he will be mindful of what he deserves as contrasted with what he has been given.  When he receives something close to what he deserves (e.g., adversity, affliction, chastisement), he cannot cry “foul!” He responds with (you guessed it!) thankfulness.  The enemy has no counter-weapon for thankfulness; the best he can do is work to take it away. From accusation to affliction, Satan can be rather creative in his efforts, but he really wants us to be thankless.

Thankless people are defeated already.  They’re entitled, they grumble, and they infect a culture like a juicy bit of gossip.  Thanklessness deserves no place in Christian community.  

This Thanksgiving season, rehearse your blessings often.  Combat affliction and accusations with thankfulness. 

—The U.H. (Mr. Sarr)

Another U.H. – Unreasonable Hospitality

This summer, the teachers read a book entitled Unreasonable Hospitality: The Remarkable Power of Giving People More than They Expect.  We discussed it during inservice at our retreat, and it led to some fruitful conversation.

Hospitality affords us the opportunity to honor the image of God in other people.  For instance, God expects for church leaders to be hospitable because people are important…inherently.  Author Will Guidara argues that gift givers act out of a sort of selfishness, as it’s actually really fun to bless (my word, not his) others.  As Christians, we recognize that this is owning to the inherent value that humans possess, as well as the way that God has wired the universe.

The book resonated with our teaching team because we already believed that people were important, and Guidara’s articulation of the notion as well as the success that he and his team enjoyed at Eleven Madison Park were a testament to how God blesses those who behave consistently with biblical principles.

While not everything transfers from the restaurant industry to our context of classical and Christian education, a lot of the principles do transfer. These were some takeaways for me.

  • Hospitality is about connecting with people, and people are valuable inherently as bearers of God’s image.
  • Hospitality does not need to be expensive, but it does require attention.  The most impactful gestures are bespoke.
  • When you’re at the point that others can count on your hospitality so much that they may either take it for granted, or even take advantage of it, then you’re getting closer to the sort of hospitality that God expects.
  • As a school, a spirit of hospitality should touch everything, from receiving guests to parent communication, to the appropriate honor we show to each student.

This all means that while we have a lot to be encouraged about, we still have a lot of work to do.

This is not about marketing the school; it’s about honoring our people. That is both obedient and fun.  And where you have suggestions as to how we can exercise greater hospitality, please don’t hesitate to let us know. And maybe check out the book, too.

The U.H.
Jonathan Sarr

Faith and Patience

Recently two significant events have deepened my appreciation for acts of faith done with patience.

First, we bought a small farm.  In April, my family moved to East Marysville, which happens to have a Granite Falls address. (You can’t see my face, but I typed that with a smirk.)  It used to be a part of a bigger farm that previous owners parceled off to fund their children’s education.  While it’s only three and a half acres, it’s a lot of work just to keep up, let alone to make forward progress on our ambitious visions for the house and land.  We have ten chickens, some young fruit trees, a pathetic vegetable garden, and all the weeds a farmer could want.  We also have some fields that I’d like to convert to more space for my kids (and their kids) to be able to run around and kick a ball.  It’s a great start, and we are very excited.  We love it, but it will be years before we are making good use of the space.

Second, I went to Europe.  Two months after moving, I was able to join the Raggants on the trip to the U.K. and Normandy.  A number of things impressed me there, which gave me encouragement to stay the course with my little farm.  I was impressed that our going to look at really old things presupposed that those things were, in fact, built to last.  The first site we really enjoyed was St. Paul’s Cathedral, which took a scant 35 years to build.  We walked along Hadrian’s Wall, which is still standing after nearly 2000 years.  We saw thousands of acres of farmland that took generations of cultivation to be free from stumps and rocks.  We may be trapped in the current moment when looking at them, but they didn’t become presentable overnight.

Back to the farm, and particularly to those fields I need to clear.  They are full of rocks.  Thousands and thousands of rocks the size of golf balls that won’t grow grass, won’t feel nice underfoot, and will destroy a lawnmower.  We are raking them up and shoveling them away.  As I write this, we are about ten percent finished with the job.  It’s going much slower than I thought it would, and one of my kids has referred to it as the toughest task she’s ever faced.

In a fast-paced society and a culture rife with immediate gratification, clearing a field of rocks by hand is good work.  Part of me wants to rent a rock picker or to haul in 600 yards of topsoil to bury those rocks.  But ten years from now, will I regret having cleared that field by hand?  Probably not.  Will my grandkids probably be glad I did?  I think so.

Looking ahead to the school year before us, it’s helpful to be reminded that while children do grow up quickly, the work we are doing is not just for them.  It’s for the current generation of Raggants and their kids….and their kids…and the communities in which they live.  There is no quick fix, no power equipment that can do it for us. But if we do it well, maybe future generations will be able to look on our work – done in faith and with patience – and praise God for His grace to them.

– The U.H.

A Ministry of Delegation

In 1 Corinthians 6:19-20, Paul delivers a Tweetable one-liner: “[Y]ou are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” We belong to another. But man, do we ever love autonomy. Freedom-loving Americans cherish hotdogs and fireworks and baseball and not having to do anything we’re told.

The inescapable reality, however, is that we are all delegates. Call it stewardship, or faithfulness, or something else, but no matter what, we are all representatives of someone else in our various charges.

Teachers operate with parentally-delegated authority and responsibility when it comes to their students. They must bear this in mind when making pedagogical, disciplinary, and curricular decisions.

Parents operate with God-delegated authority and responsibility when it comes to their children. We must bear this in mind when we are training our children and pursuing their hearts.

I operate with Board-delegated authority and responsibility when it comes to the support of the teachers. I must bear this in mind when I stand before a parent, a community member, or the teachers.

We all represent someone else when we act…and when we don’t.

This also means that we are not the principal characters when it comes to most of the stories around us. N.D. Wilson has helpfully suggested that parents should purpose to operate as awesome support characters in their kids’ stories. You may be the main character in your own story, but even then you’re not the point; you’re the object lesson for celestial readers.

This may come as a bit of a curious sort of send-off for the school year, but let me ask you a few questions:

  • How would your summer look if you planned to be an amazing support character in the story God is writing about your child?
  • How would you plan your vacations if you removed your own personal preferences from the equation?
  • What would your work, leisure, and sleep schedule look like if you were to present a timecard to the Lord on August 31?
  • If you were mindful of your delegation of authority and responsibility to your children, how would you help them structure their days?
  • Then, when your kids say how much they hate their new schedule, how would you respond to them as God’s representatives? As support characters in their stories?

I could go on, but my reminder to us all (i.e., to myself first and then to the rest of you) is this: We are not our own. Shepherd your kids, spend your money, steward your bodies, plan your days, love your spouses, consume God’s word, and do your work as good delegates, as though you represent someone else…because you do.

Risus est bellum!

U.H.

The Fundraising Feast Approaches!

The erratic weather and happy tulips agree with the calendar. It’s springtime.  And the Fundraising Feast is just around the corner.

At ECS we are particularly fond of feasting, and for reasons we’ve documented in a host of contexts.  But since it’s already teed up for me, I’ll take another swing. Feasting is an important cultural ingredient to what we are trying to build at ECS.

To be sure, feasting can be done badly.  If we eat or drink to excess, we’re gluttons and drunkards.  If we make the food the focus, we are focusing on the gifts, not the Giver.  If we eat without gratefulness, we may be ingesting calories, but we’re not feasting.

But let me take the philosophical hot-air ballon up another hundred feet or so. Feasting is grace-saturated and it is fun. It is alluring to onlookers.  It is a hallmark of a life worth wanting.

For our part, while we are (rather certainly and excitedly) a school, we are also more interested in being used by God to produce certain kinds of people than we are about producing intellectuals who may or may not love God.  The sorts of people we are trying to produce will be aware that they have nothing that they have not received. And for what they have received, they are grateful…and they act like it.

When we act grateful, we boast in the Giver of the good gifts we enjoy.  We tell any who are watching that God is gracious, and He is free with His grace. That means they can have it, too!

So our feasting is literally an evangelistic weapon.  We showcase the goodness of God when we feast.  We want for our fully-trained students to do this routinely…unto the salvation of their neighbors and the glory of God.

And in the end, it’s really fun.  I love this evening with our people.  The conversation, the music, the food, the sangria….  “SANGRIA?!” Oh! right. I haven’t mentioned what we’re doing this year.

This year, our Fundraising Feast may be better dubbed a “Fundraising Fiesta.”  We will have a “fiesta bar.”   And sangria.  And probably Coronas.  It’ll be delicious and, well, festive.  Ole.

Come dressed for a party, and that’s what we’ll enjoy.

So, the details!

  • What: ECS Fundraising Fiesta!
  • When: Friday, May 12, 2023 at 5:30pm.
  • Where: Swans Trails Farms, 7301 Rivershore Rd, Snohomish, WA 98290 (swanstrailfarms.com)
  • Who: Amigos of Evangel Classical School
  • Cost: Free!
  • RSVP: Aisha Bone: abone@evangelcs.org (360) 502-6950

Space at the Farm is limited, so if you want in, please let Aisha know by Monday, May 8.

See you there!

Risus est bellum.

U.H.

Culture, Shiny Things, and Keeping Your Soul

Curriculum is really important.  

And curriculum doesn’t matter.

Whether we use Saxon or Harold Jacobs for math depends on how much review is enough and how much is too much.  Whether we use Latin for Children or Lingua Latina for Latin grammar depends on what we want to get out of those particular hours of fourth grade.  How completely we adhere to the Omnibus curriculum depends in part on whether we agree with postmillennialism.  

But just as guns don’t kill people, books don’t teach students.  Curriculum matters, but people matter more.  The right curriculum can’t get bring a healthy culture; the right people can.  

Humans are imitative creatures, and children are always being shaped by their influences.  They are going to become like those influences, which is why the influences themselves matter, too.  

For years we at ECS have talked about our aim as being the shaping of souls, the formation of character, and the transfer of culture.  Our mission statement sums it up well; the telos of our work is the carrying and advancing of Christ-honoring culture by our fully-trained students. 

From enrollment decisions to discipline conversations to teacher meetings to soccer in the parking lot to the actual minutes practicing math facts and Latin vocabulary and reading drills and impromptu speeches, our aim is cultural more than it is curricular.

I know of a lot of schools that have better procedures and more airtight policies than we do.  They have processes for volunteer coordination and curricular review that are commendable and worth working to grow into.  We need to work on all of that.  But when schools lead with those things, I believe that they set the bar too low, and they set themselves up for failure.  

You see, procedures and paperwork are easy to manufacture and replicate. They don’t require a soul. But if you work on developing the soul of an organization, then the other pieces often come with the package…if they actually need to.  

Jesus said to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33).  If we seek first the culture of the school, the curriculum will take its proper place.  

I understand the allure of the shiny things, but you can have a shiny floor in a shiny gymnasium, or shiny Mary Janes on cute little feet, and it matters not at all if you compromise culture to get it.

Let’s consider how this informs our teaching at ECS.  I recently offered these thoughts to our teachers, but I will share them here for sake of your encouragement and perhaps for your own application as parents.  When, for instance, you’re tempted to fuss about whether or not your son will master his times tables through the 12’s by the end of the year, or whether or not your daughter will pass all her reading drills, or whether you’re ever going to get through that pile of laundry, recall those things that you already know.  Here are a few that offered to the teachers earlier this week: 

  1. You’re always teaching.  Your behavior is instructive…more than your words.  If you freak out or stress out or make excuses, you advance that as a legitimate option for your students.  If you maintain a glad presence and you’re marked by joy despite circumstances,  you advance that as a legitimate option, as well. 
  2. The gospel wasn’t your idea, but it is yours to own.  As obedient Christians, you get to teach by faith.  As you rehearse the gospel and enflesh it for your students and their families, you’ll be dying a thousand effectual deaths.  You will die to your schedule by your thorough lesson planning and your timely grading.  You will die to your own preferences as you put the students ahead of yourselves and serve them well.  You’ll die to self in your over communication on email and Sycamore for the sake of your students and their parents.  You will model faithful obedience in your loving discipline unto restored fellowship…even – and especially – when you don’t feel like it.  And God will take those deeds of faith and obedience and bring glorious fruit. 
  3. The transfer of culture is more important than the transfer of information.  If all you’re giving your students is information, data, and skills, you’re shortchanging them and missing the point of our mission as a school.  You need to be concerned with equipping them (with tools, skills, attitudes, and the character) to shape the culture for Christ’s sake when they’re through with ECS…no matter where God has them.  
  4. Laughter is war. When in doubt, laugh.  You can laugh as the right sort of taunt to your enemies.  You can laugh because God is in control, writing a variously hilarious story that you get to be a part of…and that is different from the one you’d have written.  You can laugh because it’s not about today.  So when you’ve been faithful but the moment is frustrating or even terrible, that’s okay, because you’re aimed at something way down the road, and the pothole out of when you’re peering right now is part of the road you must navigate for now if you (or your students!) are ever going to reach your destination years from now.  

Maybe one day we’ll have some shiny things, too. But it is not worth it if it comes at the expense of our culture.  That is an important point to keep in mind now…in the thick of enrollment season.  

As a school, if we are so focused on the curriculum, or programs to retain the students, or impressive facilities, or an actual playground, figuring that the culture will just work out, we miss the point. The same is true of you.  Is a big house and fancy car to be preferred over a happy dinnertime vibe?  No way. The culture WON’T just work out.  You have to work it out.

Teachers and parents alike have to be fighting personal sin with a vengeance, repent before our children if necessary, be competent and confident and humble (all at the same time), gracious and patient and firm (all at the same time), and a loving disciplinarian. 

And my final encouragement is this: Take a look around you and listen next time you’re walking past Mrs. Pakinas’ office, or eavesdropping on Mr. Liden’s class, or you pass a knot of secondary girls in the parking lot.  What sort of cultural advancement is going on throughout the school day?  It’s possible that some of it will not encourage you, but I’ll bet a lot of it will.

Risus est bellum.

U.H.

Living According to Reality

The Place of Logic In a Post-Logic Culture

For a couple of years, I’ve been struggling to find a concise and compelling justification for our offering of Logic at Evangel Classical School. Like, an elevator-trip rationale.

Though I’ve never considered ceasing to offer Logic as a class for our middle-level students, I believe firmly in doing everything we do with intentionality. We want to teach and make our curricular decisions on purpose, and I want to understand myself why it’s so valuable in order to communicate that well to others.

So what is the point of teaching our students Logic when they are tasked with shaping a culture that has abandoned any regard for sound reason?

Our culture tells itself that a key to our flourishing is not only to permit same-sex unions, but to celebrate them. If enough couples did that, we’d quite literally cease to exist, since procreation requires the union of a biological male and a biological female (Romans 1:26-27).

Also, we have lost the cultural capacity to explain that last sentence in any definitive way. No longer are TruthGoodness, and Beauty considered to be transcendent. They are now regarded as fluid, along with things like definitionsgender, and reality:

  • Genders can be changed like socks, but men are oppressors, so don’t choose to be one of those.
  • Women are largely victims, but men can become them if they want to.
  • People are responsible for the sins of anyone from history with the same skin color and gender…whatever that is.
  • Humans who are not yet born are not entitled to any freedoms…unless they’re wanted, in which case killing them is a prosecutable offense.
  • Like men, women are entitled to the privilege to have sex without the consequence of pregnancy; but the same is not true for men being afforded the privilege of pregnancy.
  • In a move applauded by ostriches everywhere (who have as much economical sensibility as they do ability to clap with those teeny wings), our president has authorized the canceling of billions of dollars of student loans with the charm of a hot-poker-to the eyeball to those of us who sacrificed to honor similar vows. 
  • “Women’s health” is not about women’s health. The same is true of “reproductive rights” and “marriage equality” and more modern jargon.

Where is the True? The Good? The Beautiful? The transcendent?

It’s no rhetorical spin to say that I could go on all day itemizing the madness, but I’m sure you could come up with examples without my help. I don’t list them in this way to be flippant, titillating, or crass; I do so to make the case that this battle is real, now. This is not preparation for hypothetical warfare which may one day be necessary; it’s training for fighting outside the base this minute. We are trying to train our students to deal with ideologies that are not on the horizon, they’re all around us.

We live in a Genesis 3 world with plenty of sin and blame to go around. We don’t need to do moral redefining to prove that it’s bad. In a three-dimensional exhibition of Romans 1, we invent new ways to be evil (1:30), and we are happy about it…and we think this is sophisticated (1:22). If we’re not currently under the abandoning wrath of God (1:24, 26), then I cannot imagine what it is supposed to look like.

So is Logic obsolete? Antiquated? A waste of time? By no means.

We tell our students that studying Logic is more about correcting themselves than it is about correcting others. Sometimes that message only hits home in the sense that they practice on their parents and siblings (usually the younger ones, who don’t have the same tools). This is a clunky bug in the system as they are introduced to a new tool, but its misuse is not a problem with Logic itself.

In a recent discussion with Sean Higgins, he quipped that we train students in Logic in order for them “to appropriately live according to reality.”

I plucked this from a context that included more goodness around it, and if he’d known I was going to examine his offhand remark, he may have been more careful in his word smithing, as he is prone to do. So it’s not inspired or airtight, but I thought it was pretty good! For sake of this exercise, I’ll dismiss the adverb (appropriately) as superfluous (and unfortunately located in the midst of an infinitive, for the three people who actually care) and briefly consider the rest:

“To…live according to reality.”

“TO…LIVE”

This points the students’ logical focus inward. Our students’ biggest problem will never be their adversaries, it will be the sin in their own hearts. Like the man who must deal first with the log in his own eye before he’s ready to go after the speck in his neighbor’s eye (Matt. 7:3-5), our students must rightly order their own thinking before undertaking to correct their neighbors.

Further, identifying the flaws in their opponents’ arguments (or panicked pleas) can help our students to not be seduced by lies…let alone to live according to those lies.

Our students cannot be shapers of culture for good or purveyors of the truth if they cannot live well, and living well requires living “according to reality.”

“ACCORDING TO REALITY”

Logic as a discipline is loaded with assumptions, the dependence on which has brought us to where we are today as Westerners. The most influential minds in Western History have assumed that reality as well as transcendent virtues. Those were actually something worth knowing and pursuing. And the men who best represented those virtues were the men they looked to for leadership (and they were not necessarily the caesars or kings).

Today, we elect the leaders whose “virtues” we hold dear, but we have a problem with our virtues. They are not transcendent; they are fluid and squishy…and in many cases, freshly-redefined (e.g., Love, Tolerance, etc.). And when you have virtuous Jell-O for your foundation, your structures can only have the strength of styrofoam.

Logic reinforces the notion that absolutes exist. Logic has rules, like the rest of our existence, and they’re not ours to create or change. They are transcendent, outside of us. Washing our students’ minds with what is True, Good, and Beautiful is loving, and it is necessary as we equip (arm?) them to shape culture. That also provides a virtuous bedrock for culture building or improvements…which is to be preferred over virtuous Jell-O.

Our living under the abandoning wrath of God is a reality. So is the gospel. Jesus has conquered sin and death and made a way for us to be reconciled to the Father. This is absolute, not fluid. And praise God that we get to spend time among lovers of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful. May we equip our children to do the same as they undertake to lead the next generation.

Risus est bellum!

-U.H.

On the Weapon of Submission

There’s no denying that we are in a spiritual war. Our enemy is invisible and our weapons are unconventional. The Apostle’s arsenal included “the belt of truth…the breastplate of righteousness” and more. At ECS we’ve added to the list things like “weaponized laughter” and feasting. And really, any good gift from God becomes a weapon of our warfare when received with gratefulness.

If you want proof, consider the enemy’s perversion of God’s gifts to us. Food? Wine? Sex? Freedom of speech? Satan hates that stuff. He would have us fear food or (at least!) be gluttonous. He would have us abstain from alcohol because of its dangers when abused. He would have us commit sexual sins because doing so harms the image of God in us and because sex is meant to be fruitful, which he also hates. He would have us abuse our freedoms (including speech) to the injury of our neighbors. While we could go on, I want to focus for a moment on a weapon we rarely wield well: the weapon of submission.

Submission offers a formula for human peace, happiness, and flourishing. It is therefore well-positioned for abuse. Husbands abuse their wives; parents abuse their children; political leaders exploit those they’re supposed to serve and protect.

The abuse cuts the other direction, as well. Wives seek to manipulate and control faithful husbands; children seek to manipulate and control faithful parents; citizens subvert and undermine faithful leaders.

But what do we encounter when submission is the delightful norm for the faithful Christian? Well, I’ve already said it: peace, happiness, and flourishing.

A friend of mine once remarked that submission was a genius strategy to establish authority and responsibility among equals. Take marriage, for instance. Scripture nowhere argues that husbands are superior to wives, intellectually or otherwise. They generally have a different makeup and constitution, but it’s just that: different, not superior. Husbands and wives are equal in value, so how is a couple ever to make a decision? By identifying a responsible party who will give account for the outcome regardless of whose personality or voice is the strongest. And that party is the husband.

So even if a wife wants her husband to submit to her, he still bears responsibility for her before God. (I’ll let you read that again.) When a wife realizes this, she is then freed up to submit to her husband in the Lord. When the couple faces a tricky decision, she can say with appropriate respect, “[Husband’s name], you’ve gotten my input on this situation, and now I trust that you will do the right thing as God works through you to act in our best interests.” She can then support him even when disagreeing (provided, of course, that he’s not acting sinfully).

This extends to our children as well. I’ve had countless students unhappy in my office because they disobeyed. Quite literally, if they would have submitted to the direction of their teachers, they would have been happier than they were while paying me a visit. Such a child can say, “I don’t understand why you want me to [insert parental directive here], but I know that it pleases the Lord and everyone’s happier when I obey…especially me.” That’s idyllic, I know, and rather sophisticated for a child to use such language. But parents can help shepherd them that direction through cheerful and patient shepherding. This sort of weaponized submission can change the world.

To be sure, some objects of submission abdicate their authority, disqualify themselves, or otherwise don’t deserve our submission. But that too is an abuse. Christians must submit as far as we can, which is probably a lot further than we are submitting at present.

Benjamin Franklin is reported to have said, “Rebellion to tyrants is obedience to God.” That’s true. Tyrants pervert submission and they should be thwarted. But there are times when the way to thwart a tyrant is by…submission. A king who tyrannizes his subjects deserves what he gets. But part of the way a king comes to ruin may just be through his subjects’ faithful submission to God. It happened to Nebuchadnezzar, and it certainly can happen to parents and presidents. This sort of submission is active, deliberate, proactive.

That’s one way to weaponize submission. Another is through the conscious exhibition of cheerful submission as we refute worldly wisdom. A child who cheerfully submits to his parents may prompt the curiosity of the world. A wife who cheerfully submits to her husband may find a husband who is working to take responsibility…unto the flourishing of her whole family. A citizen who submits whenever possible to the king (i.e., as far as faithfulness to Christ will allow) may soon find influence with the king. When we wield the weapon of submission, we hack at the root of humanistic ambition; we put feet to the faith we proclaim…that death brings life, loss is gain, and happiness comes through self-denial. We model our Savior, “who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross” (Hebrews 12:2).

Though this is not a typical Raggant Standard “Letter from the U.H.”, I believe that we all need to be reminded that our kids (and students!) are learning from us. We are teaching them how to submit, and our actions are more effective teachers than our words. This is a principle we discuss frequently as a teaching staff, and we ought to do so as parents, as well. And just as we imitate Christ, may our children learn to wield this powerful weapon. And may grace cover the gap between our actions and our words…while we fight to close it.

—Mr. Sarr
The U.H.