Friday, September 13, 2013

Teach and Admonish

And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.  And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in the one body.  And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, as you teach and admonish one another in all wisdom.
                        -- Col 3:14-16
This first reading at mass touched a chord in me, and afterwards I pondered the words which some might perceive as contrary instructions.  St Paul talks about love, the great motivator of our existence, and then he flows into aspects or results of love.  It is in love that we teach, that by word or example we show truth to others.
There are some however, some teachers by vocation even, who would say the next word, “admonish,” is inconsistent with proper teaching.  Love and teaching, they would explain, truth and the process of learning truth, should be only explained or demonstrated only with positive tools and means.  “We want those being taught to love learning,” they might say.  They would frown on things connoting a negative aspect to learning, such as admonishment or (heaven forbid!) punishment of any sort.  They want those being taught to think of learning as a totally positive experience.  These are the same people who might praise a child for his learning efforts in math even as the child fails a test.  They would view his effort as a success.  But in this thinking they would be wrong.  While they might correctly perceive love and teaching truth as good things, they fail to ask that key question: Why? 
Why are these good things?  In seeking to affirm the effort to learn, they are implying that learning’s purpose is so that the one learning might feel good, and because admonishment might hurt his feelings it is inconsistent with good teaching.
And they would be wrong.
Ask any schoolchild the simple question: “Will you feel better if you went to school, or stayed home and played?”  You know the answer.  And to this you might respond: “Yes, but that’s the purpose of good teaching, to get them to like learning, to get them to choose the school option” To this, I’d challenge you to ask the same question to your straight A students.  If they answered honestly, even these would choose to play first, despite being “well taught”.  No, the purpose of teaching is to convey truths which will enable a person to live his life steeped in those truths, so that they become part of who he is and what he does.  We don’t learn in this life; we aren’t loved in this life, so that we can feel good about learning and life, but that we can BE good.  A well-lived life is not one that plays in a small puddle of happiness, but one that spreads happiness.
A well-lived life is a disciplined one, a self-generated discipline to do good even when it is hard to do.  Part of learning how to live in hard times is to have learned discipline, to have been admonished when we erred in our learning to know what true love is like.  At times, love is hard, love bears suffering, and love sacrifices.
We love and teach and admonish that others might love and teach and admonish, and that they, our family, and the world would be better for what they learned to do.
No one exhibited the sacrifice of love; no one taught better how to love; no one made the world a better place for how he loved than Jesus on the cross.
In love, sometimes we admonish others, and they might not like that lesson as they learn, but it is part of the lesson.  In learning love, sometimes we sacrifice ourselves, while we might not like the pains of sacrifice.  But in love, we live the truths of things and of life.  Why?  He told us the answer to that question: “That you might have eternal life.”
If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners love those who love them.  And if you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you?  For even sinners do the same.  And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you?  Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again.  But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the selfish.  Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.   – Luke 6:32-36

No comments:

Post a Comment