Of all the classes I taught, Bible wasn’t the one I looked forward to teaching every day. I enjoyed my gym classes and my screen writing classes, but this Bible class I had to teach last year was a struggle. Mostly because of the kids. Yes, I said it. I had a class of kids I didn’t enjoy. Okay, these kids were fine individually, but put them together and they would start to pick on one another.
I knew, as their Bible teacher, it was my job to teach them the correct way to treat their classmates. But no matter what I told them, the girls still singled out the one girl they decided was different from them and treated her as if she was trash. And the boys, well, they just cheated most of the time and complained if they weren’t given the best marks on all of their work.
Telling them how Moses brought the people of Israel out of Egypt in hopes of helping them become a kinder class was just not working. Sunday school lessons on David killing Goliath didn’t mean anything to them. By middle school at the Inter-American School, a private Christian School, they’d heard it all. Unfortunately the way they were treating their classmates wasn’t matching up with the Bible verses they’d heard all of their life, and it was bringing me down.
Kids won’t change if the teacher, who is in charge of their spiritual growth, has a bias against them. Their bad attitudes were causing me to neglect them. For a while, longer than I care to admit, I decided just to teach the class, but not try to help them grow in their relationships with Jesus. Neglecting them was working fine until I came across the book of Colossians.
Colossians 4: 12 states, “Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
I knew as a Christian leader I had to show my students compassion. I started praying for them each night. The prayers were simple, but they helped. The girls were still mean to one another and the boys still cheated, but I started to love them. And I believe that’s what it takes when we live spiritually.
As my love grew, I decided to challenge the class as a whole, including me, to start living by the fruit of the spirit. I stopped worrying if they knew who was king David’s great-grandfather (Boaz) and started focusing on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
I offered them extra credit to memorize Galatians 5:16-25, the passage in the Bible where the Apostle Paul get’s spiritually fruity. They complained about having to know such a long passage, but as I was memorizing the passage the fruit started to show in my life. And my hope was my students could see the change in me, and start to see what it meant to live by the fruits of the spirit.
This is a lesson we can apply to our own lives. If we want to live spiritually, we need to live by the fruits of the Spirit. I am not sure if my students learned anything (middle schoolers are a stubborn breed and not all blogs have clear-cut endings), but I know by being joyful for them when they did well, being kind to them when they were mean to me, or by showing self-control when they acted out, my heart changed. And if they can see me change, then maybe, just maybe, they’ll change too.
I haven’t talked to many of those kids since I returned to Colorado, but I still pray for them. I challenge anyone to live by the fruits of the spirit and pray for the people in their lives, even if they are annoying. The change will be sweet, I guarantee it.