Fill in the blank with the first word that comes to mind: I love _________. Did you insert a person’s name? Your favorite food? A treasured vacation spot?
What a person loves reveals his heart. As Christian educators, our calling extends far beyond the content of our lessons. We are called to help our students set their affections on things that are not of this world (Colossians 3:2). In his Tractate on Education, John Milton identifies the goal of education as “repair[ing] the ruins of our first parents by regaining to know God aright, and out of that knowledge to love him, to imitate him, to be like him . . . .” The goal of education is for our students to love God.
A speaker at an educators’ conference I attended recently identified three different types of love:
- Need love – love that lasts as long as the need does. “I need a drink of water.” But after our thirst is quenched, our need love is quenched as well. This is often the type of love we have for God.
- Appreciation love – love that acknowledges contribution to our lives. “I love that picture. It’s beautiful.” We often have this type of love for God’s creation.
- Gift love – love that wants to express itself through giving. “I love you. Let me serve you.” This is the type of love we receive from God.
As I contemplate these types of love, I find myself wondering how much gift love I am developing in my students. Do my students leave my class wanting to serve others because they love God? Or do they just love the material because they need to know it for the test?
How can we lead our students to love God through a love of learning?
- Lead by example. The thing that most often interferes with our getting to the heart of our students is our own heart! Do our students see us serving out of love for God? Love is better “caught” than taught! The things we do in private affect our students because they reveal our heart! What we love, our students will love.
- Keep the heart at the heart of discipline. Does our discipline deal with the heart of the issue or are we satisfied with mere outward conformity? Do we view behavioral interruptions as a hassle or an opportunity? Do we resort to threat, manipulation, and guilt to attempt to change behavior without doing the work to get our students to see the state of their heart and their need for the gospel?
Training the affections of our students is much more important – and much more difficult – than training their minds. But, as wise man once told me (thanks, Dad!), when you keep first things first, the important things get done.
So, I ask again. What’s love got to do with it?
How can we develop gift love for God in our students?
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