Deborah is a member of Grandville Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan. She wrote this essay for the 2004 PRYP Scholarship.

Countless pages have been written by scholars around the world, who all have opinions about the “ideal” education. Books upon books can be read instructing teachers to recognize and eliminate prejudice, to teach conflict resolution, and to teach children to become productive members of society. Regardless of the credentials of the authors, there is one thing sadly lacking from such books, and from all modern education: the truth of God’s holy word. It’s no wonder that young people of the world turn to juvenile delinquency and violence to resolve conflicts. Because of the depravity of the human race, it is vital for the Christian school teacher to emphasize each day that we must love and forgive our neighbor as Christ also loves and forgives us.

It is every Christian teacher’s duty to instruct the covenant youth concerning their responsibility towards a brother who has sinned against them. But before this can be done properly, the teacher had better recognize the depravity of both him/herself and the students. The Canons of Dordt, Heads Three and Four, Article Two states, “All men are conceived in sin, and by nature children of wrath, incapable of saving good, prone to evil, dead in sin, and in bondage thereto.” The Heidelberg Catechism, Lord’s Day 2, Question and Answer 5 also teach that we are prone by nature to hate God and our neighbor.

In order for true, covenant education to take place, a “child must, in the totality of his nature and in the development of every aspect of his nature, be spiritually nurtured… Sanctified children must be taught and disciplined to be holy” (Engelsma, 68-69). This means that when a student has been sinned against by a fellow student, the godly teacher must teach him or her to respond according to the principles set forth in Scripture.

As I hope to be an elementary teacher, Lord willing, I have thought about this whole issue in regard to teaching young children. Contemplating how I might convey the truth of Scripture when a young student sins against another student, I believe there are three closely related principles to set forth. They are simple enough to be understood and carried out even by young children.

First and foremost is that of forgiveness. The Bible teaches a lot about forgiveness; therefore, we can teach children a lot about forgiveness. God repeatedly forgave Israel for falling into sin. Even the holiest of men, such as David, Solomon, and Paul, had to be forgiven of grievous sins. How much more are we and our children in need of forgiveness each day? In Lord’s Day 51, Question and Answer 126, we are taught: “Which is the fifth petition? And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors; that is, be pleased for the sake of Christ’s blood, not to impute to us poor sinners our transgressions, nor that depravity which always cleaves to us; even as we feel this evidence of Thy grace in us, that it is our firm resolution from the heart to forgive our neighbors” (emphasis mine). Years ago, Rev. Vos wrote an article entitled Forgive in the Standard Bearer. In it he stated, “We are at a loss to rightly evaluate our debt. It is endless. So we sing. “Endless is the love of God!”

Because God loves us, He demonstrates that eternal love by washing away all of our sins in the blood of Christ. “The Christian school teacher should be one who always lives in the conscious presence of the Eternal Source of grace and love” (Boerkoel, 475). We, as teachers, must constantly forgive the wrongs of our students, and also teach them to forgive one another. We may not just forgive someone when we feel like it; on the contrary, there is to be no end to our forgiveness, just as there is no limit to God’s love and forgiveness. Jesus taught Peter in Matthew 18:22 that the brother is to be forgiven seventy times seven—thereby implying that we must forgive over and over, not just a mere 490 times.

The second principle to teach children is that we must not only forgive, but we must forgive from the heart. When a student has been wronged by another student, Christian teachers ought to teach the children more than just “I’m sorry” and “I forgive you.” It is too easy to spit these phrases out just for the satisfaction of our parents and teachers, and not because we really mean them. “If we forgive from the heart, that is, if Divine mercy flows through our heart to our fellow servants that sin against us, we will receive greater mercy” (Vos, 376).

Forgiving from the heart entails that the sin is dismissed and not held against the sinner. This is a demonstration of God’s love in us; if God held our sins against us, we could have no hope of life eternal. As Hebrews 8:12 teaches, God “will be merciful to [our] unrighteousness. and [our] sins and iniquities will [He] remember no more.” Likewise, truly forgiving our neighbor means that we do not hold grudges. We do not refuse to speak to the person for days on end. We do not speak badly of the person or refuse to have contact with them. Only by the grace of God can teachers and students see the mercy of God toward their own sins, and thereby extend mercy to our neighbors.

The third principle that godly teachers need to demonstrate to their students has to do with Christ’s command to love our neighbors as ourselves. If a brother has sinned against us and we have forgiven him, we may not just stop at that. No. Because we may not hold grudges, we are to go the opposite direction and serve our neighbor. A wonderful reminder of this is found in Galatians 5:13-14, which states, “…use not liberty for an occasion to the flesh, but by love serve one another. For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even this; Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.” Not only must students be taught to forgive from the heart, but also, they need to serve each other—even if this involves actions as simple as sharing a glue stick, answering a question, or holding the door open.

In order to love and serve the neighbor, our covenant children must also learn from early on that they must not go around looking for faults in their neighbor. It is so easy for our human natures to see the shortcomings in others and not ourselves. Rather than running to tattle-tale to the teacher what so-and-so did, even children need to be taught to first look at the beam in their own eye. As Galatians 6:1-3 puts it, “Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”

The importance of Christian schools and teachers can not be emphasized enough. As Prof. Engelsma wrote, “The activity of rearing covenant children in the nurture and admonition of Christ is only done by means of Scripture” (Engelsma, 22). Because depravity exists in teachers and students, it is necessary for teachers to rely on God’s infallible Word as the only guide for faith and life. This means that when a student of mine has been sinned against by another, I will not just make the offender put his/her head down or write lines. I will teach the children to forgive each other willingly, and from the heart, as God has so willingly forgiven us. I recognize that I myself am weak and sinful; therefore, by daily prayer I will seek God’s mercy to carry out His task of instructing the covenant youth. And only in prayer will I rest assured of God’s forgiveness when I have not done so properly.

Works Cited

Boerkoel, A. C. “Christian Discipline.” The Standard Bearer 12: 471-475.

The Canons of Dordrecht.

Engelsma, David. Reformed Education. Grandville, MI: Reformed Free Publishing Association, 2000.

The Heidelberg Catechism.

The Holy Bible. King James Version. Grand Rapids. MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1994.

Vos, G. “Forgiven.” The Standard Bearer, 11: 375-376.

Deborah is a member of Grandville Protestant Reformed Church in Grandville, Michigan. This essay was written for the Federation of Protestant Reformed Young Peoples’ Scholarship.

It is becoming increasingly difficult for young women to find decent clothing. Most of the dresses, shirts, and pants that fill the clothing racks of malls and major stores are inappropriate for young women to buy, much less wear. In light of this situation, it is vitally important to keep in mind that our bodies are temples of God. If our choice of apparel is not pleasing to God, then some changes had better be made.

One does not have to look far to determine the world’s definition of modesty. For young women, current trends embraced by today’s society include skin-tight pants and revealing shirts. In volume 20, issue 17 of the Standard Bearer, Rev. M. Gritters has something to say about this:

Women of the world “want to be beautiful in order to attract, and they want to attract because they are sensual (384).” He goes on to say that such women dress that way “knowing what power such beauty has on the opposite sex.”

Unfortunately, even Christians need to be concerned with the effects of the decreasing modesty of society. Rev. Koole gets to the heart of the matter in his Standard Bearer article entitled, “The Spirit of our Age (3).” He states “When we are continually subjected to the observation of evil, the conscience becomes calloused, insensitive to the sinfulness of sin, not only as it is practiced by others, but as found in our own lives as well (451).” He explains himself by saying, “One sees the dress of our young women, especially in the summer, which accents rather than covers. Where is the modesty? The shame? It is absent (452).”

There is nothing wrong with putting on some makeup and jewelry and dressing up to look nice. But, it must be done in moderation. Beauty in and of itself is not sinful; we certainly may make the most of our God given beauty. However, it is sinful when we become devoted to beauty, and begin conforming to the world.

Conforming to the world by way of immodest dressing is a very real problem, even in the Protestant Reformed Churches. One has only to look at the struggles Covenant Christian High School has been facing. Even in the most recent Parent Communicator, administrator Mr. Rick Noorman had to address this issue yet again. “The warm weather has made the outer shirts of our girls disappear, leaving many of them with too little material to adequately cover their bodies. In addition to jeans that are below the waist and tops that are above the waist, we have the new trend of plunging necklines and sheer shirts…”

Instead of making excuses to justify immodest dress, young women ought to obey the Word of God and “flee also youthful lusts (II Timothy 2:22).” More specifically, godly young women are commanded in I Timothy 2:9-10 to “adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with braided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” Mothers need to teach their daughters to dress soberly and moderately, in opposition to the world’s vain intention of attracting other people’s eyes. The apostle Peter also speaks of this in I Peter 3:3-4 saying, “Whose adorning let it not be that outward adorning of plaiting the hair, and of wearing of gold, or of putting on of apparel; But let it be the hidden man of the heart, in that which is not corruptible, even the ornament of a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” Clearly, the will of God concerning the apparel of women is set forth in Scripture.

According to Lord’s Day 33, question and answer 90, the quickening of the new man is to “love and delight to live according to the will of God in all good works.” Godly modestly is setting an appropriate example that cannot be criticized. “Modesty focuses on inward beauty, for that kind of beauty remains strong and youthful long after our body turns old and frail” (TouchPoints, 178).

This issue of modest dressing also applies to the Protestant Reformed teacher. The spirituality of an individual will reflect in their dress. It is safe to say that a teacher in short skirts and tight shirts is not spiritually mature enough to be training our children, the next generation of the church, in the fear of the Lord in all aspects of life. In Professor Engelsma’s book Reformed Education, he states, “If the work of the teacher is rearing children of the covenant, the teacher must have spiritual credentials. He must be full of the Spirit and grace of God. The man or woman to whom we entrust our child…must be trustworthy (74.)”

By spiritual maturity, it is understood that one’s purpose in life is to praise and glorify God, not oneself. Modest dress is especially important for Protestant Reformed teachers in order to set a godly example for their students, who are taught to respect and make role models of teachers. Students are thereby taught through both word and example to live the antithesis and dress appropriately, since their bodies are temples of God and parts of the body of Christ. I Corinthians 6:19-20 leaves no room for doubt when it states, “What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.”

Lord’s Day 41, answer 109 explains to us, “Since both our body and soul are temples of the Holy Ghost He commands us to preserve them pure and holy; therefore He forbids all unchaste actions, gestures, words, thoughts, desires, and whatever can entice men thereto. If our dress is enticing to men and is not glorifying to God, then some changes need to be made to our wardrobes. As a final warning, the Canons of Dordt, under the Fifth Head of Doctrine, Article 4 we read that we “are not always so influenced and actuated by the Spirit of God…so as to be seduced by and comply with the lusts of the flesh; (we) must, therefore, be constant in watching and prayer, that they be not led into temptation.”

Works Cited

  1. Engelsma, David J. (2000). Reformed Education. Grand Rapids: Reformed Free Publishing Association.
  2. Gritters, M. The Beauty of the Young Woman. 20. (17), 384-385.
  3. Koole, K. The Spirit of our Age (3). 57. (19), 451-453.
  4. Tyndale House Publishers. (1999). TouchPoints for Students. Wheaton, IL: Author.
  5. The King James Version of the Holy Bible.

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