I am privileged to teach our 7th grade logic class. These students are entering a new developmental stage where their brains can process information more conceptually. They are learning to take what they know and apply it. These seventh graders are itching to discuss their ideas and opinions. (The last time I was in a room with so many eager arguers, I was a first year law student! If I’m honest, I felt equally intimidated to walk into both.)
One morning a few weeks ago, I sat down at my desk to prepare our next lesson, but first read through a portion of a Bible study on Philippians that I am working through. My thoughts centered around Philippians 2:3-5, so I wrote those verses down in my journal: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others. Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus.” Setting my journal aside, I began preparing a logic lesson on how we engage with others who have opposing viewpoints.
Profound Simplicity: A Lesson in Listening
Our next few lessons were about the the skill of listening to others who hold different views than our own. On one hand, this may seem like an obvious thing: we cannot discuss ideas with others if we don’t listen to what they have to say. On the other hand, well, this may be a lesson we could all use a refresher on. The textbook offered some good points, but Philippians 2:3-5 reminded of the same principles in a profoundly simple way.
We didn’t use the textbook at all. Instead, we spent the better part of a class period talking through how these verses apply to interactions with people who have opposing viewpoints to our own. We talked about the privilege they have to learn some of these logic skills that will help them form educated opinions and support what they believe. But, if they use these skills simply to make themselves look better and hear themselves argue, they are missing the point. Listening and engaging well requires humility, but demonstrates respect. We thought about how listening to others’ interests and not only our own actually improves a discussion, as we can better understand what motivates the other person and offer points that speak directly to those motivations. The students gave great examples of instructive and destructive discussions they had heard.
Profound Simplicity: Lessons in Life
Jesus liked to teach profoundly simple lessons, too. When the Pharisees (a great example of people who loved to hear themselves argue) asked Jesus about the greatest commandment, He replied with a profoundly simple answer: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39). And yet, despite the simplicity of His response, living that command out can be profoundly challenging.
Jesus often taught profoundly simple lessons; in fact, He encouraged a child-like faith. They speak to the universal human condition, but often rub against our natural inclinations. They cut to the core of who we are in ways that encourage us to evaluate how we are living. It’s not that they are difficult to understand; however, to know and to apply (and then to live out) are two very different levels of understanding.
This is where the seventh graders are in their educational journey. These students are ready to go beyond simply “knowing.” They are ready for tools that help take what they are learning and go further. They can do more than just recite the information; they want to apply the concepts to their lives. It’s not an easy process, and in fact continues over a lifetime. In the same way as our daily Christian walk, the lessons may be simple, but when put in action, the effects are profound.
Elise serves on the Abiding Savior Academy School Board, teaches logic, and serves as our Communications Coordinator. She has a master’s degree in persuasive writing, a juris doctorate, and is the author of Enough: Finding Abundant Life in a World Striving for More. Her greatest teachers, however, are her husband and their four children.She is blessed to practice what she’s learning about Christ’s love daily with her family in Sioux Falls, South Dakota