The gospel is about grace; school is about performance.
The gospel is about receiving compassion; school is about earning grades.
The gospel is about resting in the power of Christ in failure; school is about trying to avoid the shame of failure.
The gospel is about acceptance in Christ regardless of performance; school is about gaining acceptance because of performance.
Skilled and loving teachers and parents will work hard to bridge the gap illustrated by these comparisons. However, it is important to grasp that no matter how sincere one’s efforts may be, children can easily think that performance is more important than the gospel.
There is a biblical balance to be deployed when considering the tension between the gospel and performance. The balance is found in believing that children are a gift from the Lord and that they are disciplined and trained in love because they are accepted as God’s blessing.
A child’s performance can never be allowed to be the basis of his acceptance as a person. Here are two passages which illustrate this truth:
Children are a gift from the Lord; they are a reward from him. (Psalm 127:3)
My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline, and do not resent his rebuke,
because the Lord disciplines those he loves, as a father the son he delights in. (Proverbs 3:11-12)
The psalmist is clear, children are a blessing, a reward from God. And the Proverbs are equally clear. Children are to be disciplined in love and in delight. A failure to perform well in school, or in any other area for that matter, is a cause for training and correction. But this correction must not be done at the cost of acceptance or a perception of a lack of worth.
Evaluating performance is not the true measure of a child’s worth. No child can bear the weight of thinking he has to measure up to a standard in order to be accepted. Academic struggles are not a measure of worth. Neither is academic excellence. Do your children know this? The Lord disciplines you without condemnation. Do your children have the same assurance? Do they know they are loved by parents who have been forgiven, by parents who treat them as God’s precious gift, regardless of their performance?
The gospel and school. There is a disconnect, but it doesn’t have to exist. Regard children as a precious gift from God, especially when they are not very lovable. And then engage in correction because you delight in them. In this way you can connect the wonder of the gospel with benefits of school!