The Jesus Way
Free to Teach - May 2024

“There’s only one way to not be threatened by anything, and that’s if you have nothing to lose.” 

-Brant Hansen

This is certain to be my most unpopular column… 

Having been an American Christian for over 40 years, I’ve noticed some things. We all want the blessings of following Christ. We crave the peace of His presence, the abundance of His provision, and the love we experience in community with His people (except when they hurt us). But, quite understandably, we tend to de-emphasize the part about being a “living sacrifice”—or the aspects of our faith that threaten what we really want: safety and security, comfort and influence. This is why I suspect that Phil Wickham’s new song “The Jesus Way” will not be long for our playlists and worship sets. 

Any song that begins, “If you curse me, then I will bless you; If you hurt me, I will forgive; And if you hate me, then I will love you,” may be a bridge too far for us American Christians. And if that doesn’t make us uncomfortable enough, just wait until the end: “If you strike me, I will embrace you; And if you chain me, I’ll sing His praise; And if you kill me, my home is Heaven; For I choose the Jesus way.”

Are you ready to sign up for the Jesus way? Gulp.

I know many of you serving in our schools are thinking, I sign up for this every day. Students criticize or even mock you, yet you respond in love. Parents send an angry email believing the worst about you because of their dishonest child, yet you reply with patient understanding. An administrator who hasn’t visited your classroom in months gives credence to a ridiculous complaint, yet you ask Jesus for grace and strength to respond in love. If that’s you, thank you for being a living sacrifice in our schools and choosing the Jesus way.

Tracy is one such educator. She is a Christian Educators member who leads a Good News Club at her school. One of her precious 3rd graders who goes to her club was recently beaten by four of her classmates for not being a Muslim. Tracy is making a difference in this school by demonstrating the grace and truth of Jesus, praying for both the victim and the perpetrators, and for justice to be done.  

But other times, we don’t respond so well. Here are three recent examples I have witnessed: 

1. One of our members is currently facing potential criminal prosecution for making a “terrorist threat” because of a sarcastic comment uttered to his students in a moment of frustration. Obviously, we’ve connected him with an attorney. Please pray for him.

2. A few weeks ago, another member angrily shouted at a student, and a classmate recorded a video of the incident. He is now on administrative leave and we are activating legal coverage for him. I know he would also appreciate your prayers.

3. At the beginning of May, I sent out a text reminder to our membership that the National Day of Prayer, and especially the president’s proclamation of such, provided an unusual opportunity to bring up faith issues in our classrooms. After all, the president was asking us to pray! I received a few strongly worded objections to that idea, fueled by anger at our current president and my suggestion that anyone would read his proclamation. 

I understand the frustration with our president. After all, I am leading Christian Educators to sue the Biden Administration over his illegal interpretation of Title IX, set to go into effect on August 1. However, we shouldn’t allow our frustration over a political leader to blind us to an opportunity to talk about prayer in a public school classroom, especially when those opportunities are so rare. After all, if Paul was willing to quote pagan poets as a bridge to the gospel, I don’t think we are out of bounds using an American president in the same way, regardless of his politics.

We have all had emotional moments in which we say something we regret—even if only in tone. As a new dad (again!) of a one and three-year-old, this is unfortunately a regular occurrence for me. Thankfully, most of us don’t lose our jobs as a result. But what is the root cause of these outbursts? What prevents us from responding as living sacrifices and speaking the truth with patience and love?

I believe the answer is that these outbursts emerge as a result of us feeling threatened in significant ways.

An unruly class threatens our authority, our reputation, and our peace. Am I a bad teacher because I struggle to control this class?

A potential job loss threatens our security. How can I provide for my family without this job?

A political or theological disagreement threatens our (often tribal) identity. Is what I believe true? Am I on the right side? What if my group loses the election or debate?

I will be interviewing author and Christian radio personality Brant Hansen as part of our 2024 Rise Up Summit this October. His book, Unoffendable, has deeply impacted me and provides an extremely helpful perspective in regard to these challenges.

Hanson writes, “There’s only one way to not be threatened by anything, and that’s if you have nothing to lose” (Unoffendable, p. 111). What does he mean by this? Don’t all of us have much to lose?

The license plate pictured above is attached to my very own truck. The verse it bears, Matthew 16:25, is one of the five times in the gospels when we see a version of the following idea: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.”

In this passage, Jesus gives us the secret to walking in joy, rather than frustration…the secret to responding in love rather than out of feeling threatened: Give Him everything. Surrender any sense of control over your family and your spouse. Give Him your job and your reputation. Let Him have your goals and dreams, desires and hopes. Give Him your stuff.

When we surrender everything, then everything we think we have is simply on loan to us as a blessing. Losing it is less threatening because it was never ours to begin with. If God wants us to keep it, He can protect it, or He can provide something even better. 

My wife and I learned this against our will when we lost our only biological son, who is now waiting for us in heaven. By His grace, we were able to let go of any anger or resentment at God and arrive at a place of gratitude for the 30 days we were able to love him. When we truly surrender to God, everything is a gift and life is joy. What a contrast the Jesus way is to the entitlement-driven offense so pervasive in our culture?

John Wimber famously said, “I am change in God’s pocket, He can spend me how He wants.” That may sound frightening, but remember God is a good father who writes our stories far better than we can. 

So, the next time you feel the temptation to respond in anger and say or do something you may regret, take a quick inventory of what is being threatened, and actively surrender that thing to the Lord to the best of your ability. As you do so, your freedom and joy will increase significantly, as will your love for the Jesus way.  

David Schmus is the Executive Director of Christian Educators.

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Free to Teach is written to inform, encourage, and inspire Christian educators serving in our public schools. It should not be construed as legal advice provided by an attorney.

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16 Responses

  1. So good and timely! It’s so easy to get frustrated at the end of the year. If we remember to lay it down every day and claim peace and joy over ourselves, we will be less exhausted and more focused on the joy that is there. It’s not easy to do, but God’s realm is always opposite of the worldly realm. May y’all have a peaceful and joyous end to the school year, in Jesus name!

  2. Thank you for a reminder that I need over and over that my old self, with all its accompanying desires, is put to death. It’s a dagger to the heresy of the prosperity gospel and any other “gospel” that has Jesus catering to our desire for leisure, health, wealth, etc. It reminded me of a great book I read a few years ago, J-Curve: Dying and Rising with Jesus in Everyday Life by Paul Miller.

    The classroom situations you mentioned are very real, and the message of deny yourself is not the one heard in the teacher’s lounge.

    Thanks again.

  3. Loved this! You are a good writer. Brant Hanson is my favorite DJ and I have read both of his books. He is always thought provoking and calling us to he more like Jesus. You do the same. Keep challenging us David!

  4. The last few years have presented so many obstacles to temporal fulfillment and joy in our profession. However, we serve a God so loving and full of merciful compassion that he can transform even the depths into a wellspring of gratitude. As this article suggests, all too often God uses the crucible we find ourselves as opportunities to surrender all and through suffering, we awaken to a refreshed and reclaimed purpose… a mission and privilege to coddle image bearers. We can claim our status as sojourners and use our gifts and passions to point out students, colleagues,. and families to the abundant life. We then can fall to our knees and praise Him for using us and for allowing us to entrust it all to Him.

  5. Thanks David, for reminding us to follow Jesus’ example. He said hard things that went against people’s deception and feelings, especially pride. Jesus leads people on a very lonely path to a cross, and invites us to follow Him, to become His students, soldiers, and servants in this dark world, fighting the forces of darkness. Following the light isn’t easy, but it’s the only reasonable choice.

  6. Simply put…..truth! We all need second chances …. I think another christian song states it as second chances every second of every day! Living the Jesus Way is a lifetime goal, one we should pray about morning and night every day as it is so difficult but worth every effort hard as it is!

  7. Thank you David for speaking the truth with sincerity and tact. This ends my first year in Christian Educators and I so appreciate the prayers and encouragement I have received.

  8. David,
    This article is so good and so true and for me, so timely! It is what I am walking through right now! I am a 32 year veteran teacher, and 33 school days from my retirement date, an incident happened in my class for which I was put on administrative leave until it could be investigated. I have been all over the map mentally, emotionally, and spiritually, but, as you said in this article, surrendering all to Jesus, bringing all to Him and to His cross, my hopes, dreams, expectations, job, reputation, etc., I have found great peace and freedom from fear that I have never experienced before!!! I am counting this trial as joy, as it has brought me closer to Him, and His promises and songs and hymns have come alive! “Every joy or trial falleth from above…” (Like a River Glorious!) The call to lose our lives is no longer a burden or a duty, it is a joy! At the cross, we are set free! See Galatians 6:14!

    God bless you and this ministry as you continue to serve Him and proclaim His truth!

  9. Dear David,
    This article hit me right between the eyes. I have read it over and over again for days now. Thank you! It’s easy to get things mixed up and lose perspective, but what a wonderful reminder that our safety and security is found in Christ alone. He is our great Defender and Shelter, and anything that takes His rightful place is a dead idol. He is our Comforter and we need not seek comfort outside of Him. His grace is always more than enough! Thank you for helping renew my mind with the Truth that sets us free.

  10. Thank you all so much for these amazing comments. I am blown away how God seems to be using this piece to encourage so many. What an awesome God we serve! Let’s pursue the Jesus way and trust Him for the outcomes. Blessing!

  11. Wow! I am drawn to tears. The Lord has been drawing me to a deeper place of surrender as He’s been reminding me that He FULLY equips us for ALL that He has called us to– even if we don’t fully understand all the “calling” entails for His ways are truly above ours (Isaiah 55:8-11). He supplies the grace. He supplies the responses we need to whatever we face if we but continually live with a surrendered heart (Matt 6:33-34) that chooses to rejoice in Him no matter what the circumstances convey. The truth is He is always good and He has our best in mind… and He is always working all things for our good and His glory (Romans 8:28). I so appreciate the reminder here that we’re called to live lives of sacrifice– it’s that deep trust we’re invited to dive into that will cause us to release “it all” so that we own nothing– and all we have becomes His. I want to live this way 100% of the time… one day of surrender at a time.

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