How to Turn Thermometers into Thermostats

Take away from me the noise of your songs; to the melody of your harps I will not listen. But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. (Amo 5:23-24)

Thermostat_Temperature_ThermometerAs we consider our mission as Christian school teachers and leaders, and reflecting on the BCS Mission “to… equip each student to glorify God by responsible action in contemporary society” the question arises, “are our students thermometers of culture or thermostats?”  I fear that too many of our students (a nd too many of us) are thermometers, merely reflecting the moral temperature of our culture rather than changing it.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet. You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  (Mat 5:13-16)

Reflecting on the compelling need by God’s grace to help our students become thermometers rather than thermostats, I am reminded of Martin Luther King Jr.’s words in his Letter from Birmingham Jail:

There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators"' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests…

How do we help our students/children become thermostats rather than mere thermometers?

1) PRAY—only God can change minds and hearts: “So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.” (1Co 3:7)

2) Study God’s word as we cannot be holy vessels without it and we cannot give what we do not possess: “Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth.” (Joh 17:17); “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Rom 12:2)

3) Be relevant—meet students where they are and then, in love, share the application of God’s word with them—but not always didactically.  Have your students wrestle with current and difficult political, scientific, moral issues—don’t spoon feed—teach them how to cook and how to eat, using God’s word as the recipe.

4) Be steadfast and patient—“ And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” (Gal 6:9-10)  “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains.” (Jas 5:7)

It seems wholly appropriate on MLKJ Day to reread Martin Luther King Jr.’s Letter from Birmingham Jail.  Setting aside any and all political considerations, there is much to commend this letter.  I recommend that you reread it in its entirety if you have not done so recently.