Instead of posting articles on facebook, I should stick to writing my blog.

I have a bad habit of overstating my case sometimes. So does the writer of this article, which I should not have posted on facebook without a bit more qualification.

I certainly don’t agree with the article on every point, but I do think it pokes a stick at some very important questions, particularly for urban families who have the financial and/or social resources to choose where their children will go to school.

Like any parent, I want what is best for my kids. As a Christian, however, I think it’s tremendously important to question what that means. “What is best” for my daughter is that she learns to love the Lord and love her neighbour as herself. She could go to the best school in the world (of whatever type that may be) and never learn this. She could receive no formal education whatsoever and still in the end have received what is best. So I first want to posit that whether or not you send your kid to private school or public school is not necessarily a question of whether you are giving them what is best or not. That said, education matters. You probably cannot overstate how much it matters.

I want what is best for my kids – and so does every other parent. But while I can choose where to send Jubilee to school, many of my neighbours cannot. Their children will go to the public school around the corner whether they like it or not, because they cannot afford another option. Thus, my choice of where to send Jubilee to school is not just an individual choice about what is best for my daughter. It impacts my neighbours. If she goes to the public school down the street, her presence and our family’s boots-on-the-ground investment in the school will have beneficial effects on our neighbour’s children. If we send Jubilee to private school, we remove that benefit.

Sending your kid to public school is clearly not the only way to love your neighbour. In fact, if you are spending your time and energy loving your neighbours in other ways, then you probably ought not to make the enormous commitment of sending your child to an underperforming public school with the intent of being engaged in its programs and environment for the betterment of the community. If, however, you have the resources and the calling to make that commitment, then I think it is well worth considering.

I think it is worth considering even more so if you have a lot of families from your church with similarly aged children who could all send their children to the local public school together, be invested in it together, and support each other in the difficulties of doing so.

I think that the article’s ideas have some merits, and I think that public schools could be helped and even transformed if significant amounts of socially and financially wealthy families committed to their well-being with their time, money, energy, and even their children. My secret pipe dream in life is to do this in West Philly along with other families from City Church.

My fear is that the liberal Pharisees will beat us to it. That the church might fail to show sacrificial love in such a radical way. I think that it can be done, and I think that it does not involve sacrificing our children on the altar of a progressive agenda, but rather teaching them how to love God and their neighbour in the best way possible: by example.


The Kingdom of God is like…

Now Jesus was teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath. And behold, there was a woman who had had a disabling spirit for eighteen years. She was bent over and could not fully straighten herself. When Jesus saw her, he called her over and said to her, “Woman, you are freed from your disability.” And he laid his hands on her, and immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God.

But the ruler of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the people, “There are six days in which work ought to be done. Come on those days and be healed, and not on the Sabbath day.”

Then the Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from the manger and lead it away to water it? And ought not this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen years, be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” As he said these things, all his adversaries were put to shame, and all the people rejoiced at all the glorious things that were done by him.

He said therefore, “What is the kingdom of God like? And to what shall I compare it? It is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his garden, and it grew and became a tree, and the birds of the air made nests in its branches.” And again he said, “To what shall I compare the kingdom of God? It is like leaven that a woman took and hid in three measures of flour, until it was all leavened.”

Usually, when Christians reference the mustard seed metaphor they use it to say this: “Mustard seeds are TINY! Mustard trees are HUGE! The kingdom of God starts out small but it grows and grows from a tiny seed into a HUGE tree!”

True. But I don’t believe this is the point that Jesus is making. First, because mustard plants are not. that. big. From what I can tell, they’ve got a similar size range to sunflowers. They aren’t trees, and they aren’t nearly the biggest plant around in Palestine (which would probably be the olive tree).

“He said therefore…” The parable of the mustard seed is a direct response to the events surrounding his healing of the crippled woman. The reason Jesus stops to explain what the Kingdom of God is like is that he just witnessed a perfect example of what the Kingdom of God is NOT like.

Let’s call the ruler of the synagogue “Steve.” Steve’s job is to teach, guide, comfort, and heal the people of his synagogue. Jesus shows up at Steve’s church and heals a woman who has been crippled for years and now Steve is upset. Why? Because Jesus is making Steve look bad. “The sabbath isn’t for healing!” Steve cries. “It’s for praying and reading your Bible!” What Steve would like to say is “Get out of here, Jesus. You’re actually doing my job right, with the heart that I should have, and you’re showing me up for a fraud and a hypocrite.” Unable to criticize the obviously good thing that Jesus has done, he instead turns his abuse on the people he is supposed to shepherd: “You’re doing it wrong! Come on the other days of the week for healing, not during my church service.”

“No, Steve.” Jesus says. “You’re doing it wrong.”

Jesus wants to explain what the Kingdom of God should look like, and as he racks his mind for a suitable metaphor, he comes up with two pictures: one in which a small seed grows into a home for birds, and one in which a bit of yeast makes a meal of bread. What is the kingdom of God like? It is like food for the hungry and a home for the wanderer. It grows from tiny beginnings into ordinary but life-giving means of love.

Literally, yes – there are homeless and hungry people on the streets of my city. And there are also other kinds of hunger, other ways to be without a place to rest and belong. Jesus’ call, before anything else, is a call for his people to meet those needs in love. I think it is not out of line to say that if, like Steve, our vision for the Kingdom of God doesn’t place this first and foremost, we’re doing it wrong. We have missed the point of the Kingdom, and we are just as deserving of Jesus’ criticism as Steve the Synagogue Leader.

Christians today feel beset by troubles. Diminishing influence in society. Hypocrisy on one side and fanatacism on the other. The gay marriage debate (and which side of it we’re supposed to be on). We’re losing the young people – no wait, we’re losing the old people! It is genuinely hard to know what the way forward looks like, where there is solid ground to stand.

But I encourage you to stand on Christ the solid rock. And to agree with him that before all these things, we are a church that is a home and a meal to those who need them. Our first and highest calling is to give life and love to the people God puts in our lives each day. The other questions are not unimportant, but they are secondary and count for nothing if we do not first love like Jesus did.