There is an African proverb that says: “It takes a village to raise a child.” But seldom people know that “It takes the sacrifice of God’s Son to transform a sinful man.” Transforming the broken Imago Dei is not as easy as educating them how to live. To transform a sinful man requires the Son of God to suffer the most painful agony. Transforming a sinner must bring all of us to go back to the very foundation of human life. Education is not capable of fixing the problem of sin that Adam and Eve brought to the world. But education may serve as a tool to introduce the sacrificial work of the One true God.
God has a plan to transform people who are supposed to be tossed to hell into becoming His children who will live in His presence forever. The brokenness of Imago Dei is so deep that every area in human life is affected. Moreover, sinful humans must be condemned in hell to satisfy God’s righteousness. In order to transform sinful humans from wretched beings into holy people, something impossible must be done. God’s righteousness demands the sinners to be punished, but in His perfect love God wants to save them from punishment. His righteous punishment will condemn sinners to the ultimate death, but God’s love wants them to be forever alive in His presence. How can God’s righteousness and love be satisfied at the same time, so sinners will be saved and yet His justice shall be satisfied?
There is only one way to satisfy God’s righteous justice and love at the same time. The Son of God must sacrifice himself by taking up the nature of man and be crucified. The punishment that we all are supposed to endure, Jesus must endure in order to satisfy God’s justice. When Jesus is punished, God shows His love for us whom He calls His children. Because in Jesus Christ God’s wrath passes over us so we will not experience the ultimate death. Jesus endures the ultimate death for us. Jesus becomes the representative of those who believe and are saved. This is God’s only way to save us and yet to escape betraying His own nature.
When we are saved, our transformation begins. Our death has been turned into life. We are now living beings in the truest sense. We no longer live like those waiting their turn to be buried. We live a full life in Christ Jesus. This is the very foundation of our transformation. Without this transformation, all education endeavors humans do are futile. Education will only hit the wind if the souls are still dead. The human spirit must be revived in order for education to be truly effective. This is a hard truth to swallow. Rousseau argues that sin is not in individual human but in the society, and so, for Rousseau, the answer for the brokenness of humanity is education. But Rousseau is dead wrong. In the end he has to admit that even for Emile who he has taught and prepared to be the champion of his era, Rousseau cannot guarantee that Emile would be consistent with his goodness. The bottom line is Rousseau eventually doubts that education can save humans. The truth is, no education can save humans. Only God can. True transformation can only be done when one believes in Jesus Christ.
After the souls are revived in Christ, then education becomes effective. The broken image is beginning to be fixed in Jesus Christ. The “dead cells” are now alive. The “newly living cells” are now ready to be shaped for the Kingdom of Heaven. But the complete transformation must undergo a long process of sanctification. This process takes true education. The dead cannot be educated, only the living can. The total transformation will take place when Jesus Christ comes the second time. Right now the believers are walking through the process of being completely transformed through education. John Dewey is right when he says that education is life itself and not just preparing for life. But Dewey did not know what true life is. Only in Christ Jesus we know what true life is. Jesus ordered his disciples, and all of us, to teach those who are just baptized in the name of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, “to obey everything I have commanded” (Matthew 28:20).
The first sin was about being disobedient to God’s commandments. The redeemed people are to learn to obey God’s commandments. This is the job for education. All true educators must teach people the way of the true life, and the true life is only in Jesus Christ. For “through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made” (John 1:3). We are created by God, and therefore we are created in Christ. “In him was life, and that life was the light of men” (John 1:4) and “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6). Jesus Christ is the life. No one can live outside of the source of life, who is Christ. Therefore, if we are to talk about true education, then we must talk about true life. And talking about true life we must talk about Jesus Christ who is the life.
True education must be transformative in nature, following the work of the Holy Spirit in regenerating people from dead to life in Christ Jesus. True education must continuously transform the newly fixed imago dei for the final form that God has in mind. We are to be totally transformed to be like Jesus Christ, who is the true pattern. Our job is to learn the true life, and the educators’ job is to teach us how. Learning to live the true life in Jesus Christ becomes our way of life. Stephen Tong rightly says that believers must have the attitude to learn and to serve in the Kingdom of God. His statement resonates with Jesus’ life and commission. Remember that Jesus came to the world to serve and not to be served and Jesus’ commission for his disciples is to teach the true life, and it requires the believers to learn what is being taught them. Gandhi once said: “Learn as if you were to live forever.” His statement is good but not enough. For Christians, I would say: “Learn because you already have eternal life.” The eternal life that is given to us requires us to learn how to live it. This eternal life is different than the life we know on earth. The eternal life that we have received in Christ can be seen in the life of Christ, and his life is the life of obedience to God the Father (Philippians 2:5-8). This is the true life we are being transformed into, just like Jesus Christ who is perfectly obedient to His Father from start to finish. Soli Deo Gloria!
- The Business of Christian Education XI -