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When the Time For Talking Ceases

by Steve Smith, April 9, 2003

George W. Bush has said that the time for talking has come to an end. Because Saddam Hussein has been unwilling to translate his words about disarmament into deeds of disarmament, military action must now displace diplomatic negotiation. The full might of the US Military now stands poised to unleash a fearful assault of 21st Century war upon Iraq: computer-guided missiles will be followed by jet-fighters and bombers bristling with destructive power; then thousands of modern tanks and high-speed troop carriers will move in to mop-up the surviving resistance. In the 17th Century, Louis XIV had all his cannons inscribed with this maxim: “The Final Argument of Kings.” The final argument of the US to Saddam Hussein will convince him in a way that words could not.

I am neither a fear-monger nor a war-monger. I am convinced that we are not at “the end of the world”, and I do not know when our Lord shall return (but, as has been the case for the past 2000 years, I encourage you to be ready). God never changes, nor do His purposes; but of the future, we know very little. I am not sure if the current war starting in the Gulf will spread beyond that region, but, politically speaking, the chances are good that it will. Of the future, I am certain of only one thing: that it is uncertain. And the only thing that will remain the same in the future is constant change. It is for this ever-changing uncertainty that we seek to prepare our children.

The time is soon coming (and for our Grade 12’s it is already here), when the time for talking will end. In a Christian school it seems we talk to (or at) our children endlessly. We talk about career goals and making good choices; we talk about relationships and godly values; we talk about computer chips and Columbus’s ships and fellowship until it all whirls into a blur. But when the time for talking ends, what do our kids actually do? Do they “do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with their God?” (Micah, 6:8). What remains of our carefully constructed theology when the storms of life have passed over us? According to Jesus, only that theology which has been “put into practise” will last (Matt. 7:11).

I am often suspicious that our Christian schools produce too many “hot-house plants”. Such plants grow well enough in the artificial conditions of our small school, sheltered as they are from adverse, climatic conditions. Sadly, however, once these plants are moved outside, they find themselves unable to cope in their new environment. The world outside our school is not one that is ruled by good intentions or high ideals or even by democratic decisions. It is ruled by violence, compromise, and self-interest. Only those kids who are both spiritually and materially prepared to withstand this adversity will be able to make a stand for righteousness (Eph. 6).

So how do we prepare our kids to live victoriously, even joyfully in “this present darkness?” (Eph. 6:12)

First, we remember that the Christian school is an extension of the home, not vice versa. As Christian teachers, our job is to help your kids realize the goals that you have for them. We will help your kids reach for their high calling in Christ and study to show themselves approved. But if this message differs from what is said or implied at home, it will not happen. We send homework home with kids so they can achieve the goals that you have hoped for, and prayed for, and encouraged them to attain; it is not our goals we want your kids outlet for all the good teaching we’re filling them up with: a way for them to walk the talk. After all, the only difference between the sheep and the goats (Matt. 25) was what they did and didn’t do.

Are our children ready for when the talking ends? As the father of elementary children and a teacher in the high school, I realize this question must be answered differently for the different ages. And, please, don’t get me wrong, I am all in favour of diplomacy. Military metaphors sit uneasily with me. (After all, the best way to defeat an enemy is to make him your friend.) But, at the end of the day, talk is cheap. Not words but deeds indicate the character of a person. There is no doubt— whether we speak spiritually or materially— our kids will face war. And it is not fine words, but “blood, sweat, toil, and tears” that will see them through it.

Steve Smith