Lessons in Diplomacy from a Teenager

Sometimes as moms you get a glimpse of the kind of people your children are growing to be and it makes your heart happy. This week I got one of those.

My eldest son came home with an assignment from school that had me on edge. It had him stressed. His teacher had assigned a questionnaire on prejudice. The more Jarod struggled with the questions, the more I realize how loaded they were. They were asking kids to confess prejudices they had and identify groups in society who are victims of prejudice. Some of the questions were incredibly slanted and leading.

His teacher had already revealed his value system was not in line with ours. And he lets students share their opinions with little to no censoring or direction, no matter how graphic or inappropriate the thoughts. I could just imagine the potential direction the classroom discussion could take.

As Jarod sought my advice on how to answer, balancing honesty with not making himself a target, a thought flitted across my mind. You know, you could contact the teacher and ask the appropriateness of these leading questions. At the very least you could ask how he planned to guide the conversation to keep it balanced.

Was this the right course of action? No, I decided. Not this time. (And hear me—sometimes it is!)

Jarod is a sophomore. In just over two years he will need to be able to articulate his faith without my protection or help. Scratch that. He needs to be able to do that now.

Buell Bunch (1 of 31)And then I remembered this is something Jarod has been doing with excellence for years in the public school discussions he has encountered. He’s defended his stance on the 2nd Amendment in a class with an anti-gun teacher. He’s defended his beliefs in school discussions with peers and with teachers. He’s made Christian teachers smile that he has explained basics of theology in ways they aren’t allowed. Better still, Jarod has excelled at picking his battles, knowing when to keep silent and when to stand up for his beliefs. And he is diplomatic in sharing his position without becoming angry or belligerent.

My heart smiled at all this. That’s one of the many reasons his father and I chose public school. We wanted our children to work out their faith in the world they will inhabit while having us present to discuss, explain what the Bible says, teach, and, as a last resort, defend them when the playing field is unfair. Jarod is my child who is thriving at this.

So I offered cautions to avoid certain political minefields and then we prayed. Before he got out of the van that morning we asked the God of all Wisdom to give some to Jarod and to help him represent Jesus to his class in the best way possible.

Jarod was beaming when he climbed back in the van after school. The conversation was not nearly as bad as he had feared. There was mention of prejudice against a few groups that Jarod didn’t agree were victims, but, he said, he could not see a loving way to disagree so he said nothing.

When one girl said that churches were prejudice, Jarod found his voice. He said that this statement was unfair. He pointed out that whenever you take an imperfect group of people trying to follow a belief system, you will have those who mess up or go to extremes that don’t accurately represent God. And, he added, saying all churches are prejudice is a prejudicial statement in itself. The class laughed and agreed. One girl said, “Way to go, Jarod!”

My heart was so happy. There was more, but suffice it to say he spoke the truth in love. He defended his faith. He reminded those around him Christians aren’t perfect. And he chose his battle carefully.

How often do we take up a flag for battle when calm discussion is the more Christ-like path? How often do we define ourselves as persecuted when really we are encountering people who have not been accurately shown who Jesus is? We have lost the ability to participate in civil discourse, honoring others while agreeing to disagree. Our society has gone the path of vilifying those who disagree with us instead of approaching disagreements with friendly debate and conversation.

Thankfully, Jarod understands this and has chosen a better bath. One of the greatest joys of motherhood is getting to be witness to the amazing people growing in front of us and seeing God at working their hearts. That made this a good week.

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