…to Teach to Teenagers on Wednesday Nights.
Our teen Wednesday night class has become my favorite night to be with my students. We meet together (7-12th grade) to pray, read, and discuss. Our discussions have been growing better and deeper over the last few months and it is just amazing how interested most of the teens seem to get into expressing their thoughts and feelings concerning certain passages. The overarching theme that has carried us over the course of the year is “Becoming a Disciple.” Right now I have been teaching through the letter to the Philippians. Last night we were in chapter 3.
Finally, my brothers, rejoice in the Lord! It is no trouble for me to write the same things to you again, and it is a safeguard for you.
Watch out for those dogs, those men who do evil, those mutilators of the flesh. For it is we who are the circumcision, we who worship by the Spirit of God, who glory in Christ Jesus, and who put no confidence in the flesh— though I myself have reasons for such confidence.
If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.
But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.
So I begin to walk through the passage. I remind them that Paul was writing to them to encourage them to keep holding on to Jesus in the face of opposition. In chapter 3 Paul gets specific about who or what is threatening these young Christians. It was the idea that these Gentiles must become Jews in order to become Christians. So far they are with me.
Then we get to the part about circumcision. I, gingerly, explained what it was and, because it represented the covenant God had made with his chosen people, why it was important to the Jewish believers.
I can start to see the guys squirm and giggle.
At that point I stop them and say, “Let’s not get caught up on circumcision, ok? Just understand that these people Paul was warning about were saying that just believing and obeying Jesus wasn’t enough. They were telling these new Christians that they had to do more in order to be saved. They had to “look” a certain way and that by looking that way they would find favor with God. It’s about outwardly appearing to be holy.” At that point they stop giggling and I hear a few “ohs” and “Ok I understand.” I am getting ready to to bring the comparison to today in and one of the boys raises his hand. He still has a confused look on his face. A confused look mixed with fear.
Teen: “How long ago was this?”
Me: “About 2000 years ago.”
Teen: “So there were no knives!?!?! (panic sets in) What did they use? Sticks!?! Rocks!?!”
I was so afraid at that point that “circumcision” was going to totally derail the discussion but it didn’t. I assured him that there were knives at that time and his face relaxed and so did the other guys. They stayed with the rest of the discussion and all went well.
I guess I learned, again, to never take anything for granted when it come to teaching teens. Don’t assume that they have been taught about the background to anything. Don’t ignore their concerns (even about renegade Rabbis with circumcision stones).
Treat them fairly and answer any and all questions no matter how funny, serious, or seriously funny they are.