When There is No Right Answer
Angry, frustrated, fearful, anxious, uncertain, insecure, hesitant.
These are all words I am hearing from educators these days as we consider how to open school this fall. You may be experiencing some of these emotions. The situation many of us find ourselves in seems nearly impossible to navigate. There are multiple sides to the issues educators are tackling, and all positions have merit. There doesn’t seem to be a right answer.
Before going any further, I think it is important to recognize the current dilemmas we are facing are not unique to education. Every industry—medical, retail, service, manufacturing—is facing the same challenges. As cliché as it sounds, we really are all in this together. However, what makes it a bit more concerning for the field of education is that children are involved. Any time children are brought into the equation the impact of decisions is elevated to a whole new level.
Most decisions being made right now regarding next school year rest in the hands of a few. However, the implementation of those decisions will fall into the laps of building administrators and teachers. Being responsible for carrying out unpopular mandates is not always an enjoyable place to be. What if we don’t agree with the decisions? As Christian educators, what should our response be…especially if there is no right answer?
Don’t you wish there was a manual for times like this that outlined what we are supposed to do? In actuality, there is. Although the term “COVID-19” is not mentioned in the Bible, there are guiding principles we are called to follow when times of controversy and unrest exist.
Let’s take a closer look at a familiar passage in Romans.
Everyone must submit to governing authorities. For all authority comes from God, and those in positions of authority have been placed there by God. Romans 13:1
It’s important to note Paul was writing to Christians when Nero, one of the most evil rulers of all time, was sitting on the throne. This verse is a bit hard to swallow, especially if you feel your leaders are wrong. Nevertheless, the charge remains the same. We are to respect and obey those in authority. Why? Because God is ultimately the one in control. There is no clearer description of this in the Bible than in Jesus’ exchange with Pilate.
“Why don’t you talk to me?” Pilate demanded. “Don’t you realize that I have the power to release you or crucify you?” Then Jesus said, “You would have no power over me at all unless it were given to you from above. So the one who handed me over to you has the greater sin.” John 19:10-11
Pilate was not a strong leader. He was fearful of the people, and he made the wrong decision. Pilate was a sinful man. However, he was in authority, and all authority comes from God. I know…it is complicated. I don’t claim to understand it, but in the end, I don’t have to understand. I simply have to trust God has a plan.
Paul doesn’t simply tell us to respect authority. He also provides two reasons why we should: (1) to avoid punishment; and (2) to keep a clear conscience (Romans 13:5). I’m reminded of what my wise grandmother used to tell me during my teenage years when I would lament over something someone had done to me. She would say, “They will be responsible for what they do, and you will be responsible for what you do.” We can’t be held accountable for the sinful decisions of leaders. However, we don’t want to let our frustration with those decisions result in sinful actions on our part. Sin creates separation between us and God, and that is something none of us want.
I can already hear some of you saying, “But what if I am asked to be disobedient to the Word of God?” I’m so glad you asked! This is our only exception. Our first allegiance is always to obey God rather than men. There are many examples in the Bible of people taking a stand against authority.
· When the Sanhedrin commanded Peter and John to stop speaking in the name of Jesus, they replied, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to give heed to you rather than to God, you be the judge; for we cannot stop speaking about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:19-20). Later, when the command was repeated, Peter answered, “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
· Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to bow before Nebuchadnezzar’s idol (Daniel 3).
· In defiance of the king’s edict, Daniel continued to pray (Daniel 6).
· The midwives refused to kill the baby boys as decreed by the King of Egypt (Exodus 1).
Denying the gospel, worshiping false Gods, taking life—this is where we draw the line. Anything we are asked to do that is in direct opposition to the Word of God is non-negotiable. Fortunately, in the United States, many of us are not put in this position.
The difficulties we are facing now are mostly focused around the pandemic. There are numerous divisive decisions to be made.
· Do we bring kids back to school?
· Do we teach virtually?
· Should there be a hybrid approach?
· Will teachers be trained?
· Will everyone wear masks?
· Will students have to sit six feet apart?
· Will our schools remain sanitized?
· What happens if a teacher or student gets the virus?
The decisions seem endless, and most of the questions do not have a right answer. As Christian educators we have some tough decisions to make. Each of us needs to commit the matter to prayer and follow the Spirit’s prompting.
Let me close with one last thought to ponder. The reality is Boards of Education across this country are in a no-win situation. Every decision they make will be seen by some as wrong. We need to remember that the people who serve on our boards are doing the best they can in an impossible situation. Please, as you pray about your personal course of action, would you also pray for them? Consider Paul’s charge to us.
I urge you, first of all, to pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity. I Timothy 2:1-2
There is no right answer for our board members and leaders. If there was, we would all make the same decision, and that is not happening across the country. Commit this situation to prayer. Pray that Christian educators will be respectful of our leaders. Pray that our leaders will make wise decisions. Pray that the pandemic will end soon so that we can return to the days when we can touch, hug, and love on each other.