Do We Need Yellow Tape?
Brian D. Dykstra, teacher at Hope PRC Christian School in Walker, MI
“Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (I John 3:15).
Definitions are important in our society. Some lawyers make their living arguing over the exact definitions of words and the meaning of legal documents. Definitions are important in our circles too. When ministers preach or write articles, they are careful to use the right words in the right context.
Our definitions are different from the world’s. God’s Word teaches us that the keeping of His perfect law is not merely a matter of outward compliance and behaviour. The light of God’s law searches the heart and discovers the darkness of our natures. Sinfulness lurks in our nature and at times our sinfulness is evident in our behaviour.
Does the sin of murder take place in our schools? Do we need the yellow crime scene tape used by the police? By the world’s definition, we have had no murders here. In fact, in many years of teaching, I have not even seen a handful of fights. On the surface, things seem to go well. However, murder is a matter of the heart and it begins with hate.
What is hate? Is hate at the extreme end of an emotional spectrum with love at the other end and apathy in the middle? Can we say, “I dislike that fellow and I have animosity for this one but I keep my emotions in check well enough so that I am not actually guilty of having hate for him.” Or is it the case that any negative emotion we have regarding a person, no matter how strong, is hate? Are all of our emotions regarding others divided into two categories, love and hate, but we have these two basic emotions to varying degrees?
I did a little reading on how the word hate is used in the Bible and I came across something which some might find interesting. In a lexicon, I read, “Not a few interpreters have attributed to [hate] the signification to love less, to postpone in love or esteem, to slight; through oversight of the circumstance that ‘the Orientals, in accordance with their greater excitability, are wont both to feel and to profess love and hate where we Occidentals, with our cooler temperament, feel and express nothing more than interest in, or disregard and indifference to a thing.’” By the way, this explanation of hate is why some who do not care for the doctrine of predestination believe Romans 9:13 should be translated, “Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I loved less.”
Now let us look at our children. Words are spoken to and about others which ought not be spoken. Some are treated in ways which they should not have to experience. Some classes present more of a struggle than others in this regard. It has nothing to do with a class’s overall academic ability either. I have had classes which were not very academically gifted but displayed great kindness to each other, while other similar classes could not get along well. Some gifted classes have been very kind, while others were smart enough to know just what to say or do to make someone suffer.
Is the cause of this treatment hate? At times it is. More often, however, the perpetrator is more concerned with his social standing than treating the victim as he should. Some seek to provide evidence that they belong with a certain crowd by how they treat others who are not part of that crowd. A place on the social totem pole is more secure when those lower down are stepped on now and then. Students fail to understand or appreciate how others may be affected by their words and deeds. Christian compassion is not easily learned.
My heart breaks a little when a phone call is received or a conversation is had because some student’s day was ruined. Maybe it was made known that their wardrobe does not quite measure up or someone was treated as worthless because their lack of athletic ability caused a game to be lost. Is this a big problem among us? If it happens at all, it happens too often.
What can be done? Our children have to learn how to give evidence of living the life of the redeemed. We all must instruct them in the way of Christian love when we have the occasion. We can do this by setting an example by how we adults speak about each other. We and our children can do better by the grace of Jesus Christ. With God’s Spirit in our hearts we can follow the instruction He gives us in I John 3:18, “My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”