I sat in a student missions training seminar about 6 months ago. What we were facing that week consisted of sleeping on floors, engaging refugee families who didn’t speak much English, teaming up with unfamiliar people, and adhering to someone else’s schedule—which means late nights and early mornings.
In our first seminar, Pastor Brad Cardwell taught on requirements versus preferences in life. More specifically, he was challenging us to think about our week of missions—what are requirements of our faith as mandated by scripture and where have we hedged in ourselves by personal preferences?
We spent time talking about preferences: gourmet coffee, comfortable bedding, 8 hours of sleep, favorable responses to the gospel, and safety. Then we discussed the requirements of the faith: honoring and acknowledging the Lord above all, proclaiming the gospel to the nations, working without complaining, and practicing obedience.
But this made me think of how quickly in every facet of life our preferences can take center stage to the requirements from the Lord. If we don’t orient ourselves from God’s Word, we can easily operate under our own preferences, often creating an unnecessarily complicated mess of life.
Preferences: organic vs. conventional, minivan vs. suburban, soccer vs. gymnastics, fingerpaint vs. sand art. . . The majority of our daily parenting choices come from personal preferences of what works best for our family dynamic.
But what happens if I operate under the guise that fingerpainting is a requirement from the Lord? All of a sudden other aspects of life get pushed to the background. I allot more resources to this activity and plan our lives around it because if it’s a requirement then it needs more airtime from me. I then must defend this activity from naysayers, find like-minded fingerpainters, and even set myself to constant vigilance against misappropriated attacks against this family requirement.
Obviously this is ridiculous—but I think we do this all the time with our family choices. It’s easy to mistake requirements from preferences. Specifically, schooling.
We want our children to grow into intelligent, talented, and even kind young people. We also want to avoid truancy charges, so we make a decision about schooling.
But as believers, we cannot mistake this individual decision as a requirement when in reality it’s a preference.
These are requirements of parenting as mandated in Scripture: discipline and instruct in the way of the Lord (Ephesians 6), teach children about the Lord at all times (Deuteronomy 6), recount the deeds of the Lord to the coming generation (Psalm 78). Preference of parenting (and it’s a major one): public school, private school, or homeschool.
Regardless if you think it’s a different belief in the same faith (1 Corinthians 12) or a curse or blessing—we have to make sure we aren’t creating biblical mandates that don’t exist. What I’m talking about is considering your choice of schooling to be not only superior, but also right. It’s natural for us to make ourselves the standard for others’ living choices—but honestly, that’s laughable if we think about it.
I think one major danger we can fall into here is taking one verse from scripture out of context to create a mould of why we have chosen one of the three schooling options. We are then attempting to raise the standard in an area that simply cannot support an elevated status.
Call it different strokes for different folks or freedom of choice or some other variety. The bottom line is that it is God who fulfills his purpose for us (Psalm 57). Our children were created for a variety of purposes, and God uses a variety of means to get them there.
Here in the States where we have the freedom to choose, it has become a very divisive platform between families. I know I’ve overheard some Judge Judy’s when it comes time to pick out homeschool curriculum or order private school uniforms or sign up for the bus route.
And in our churches—this has traditionally not been a topic that easily promotes the brethren dwelling in unity like in Psalm 133. Schooling simply cannot be something we allow Satan to use to turn families against one another in a battle of superior choices and standards of living.
So, where can we lay down our preferences and where must we diligently work to maintain requirements? This is a fundamental question we must constantly keep at the forefront of our holy parenting in this sacred calling.
Looking for other resources on schooling options?
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