The Impact of Jesus on American Education

, by Christopher D. Hudson

These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.

Soon after the Reformation fires spread across Europe, new colonies formed in America that were heavily influenced by the Reformers’ ideals. One of the areas in which the Reformers’ influence took root was the education of American children.

The earliest form of education in America occurred in people’s homes, as parents taught their children between harvest and the next spring’s planting. Families would also gather together in the local church building, which would serve as a community school during the week. Since most parents were literate, many of them could serve as the community’s teachers, as their work schedules permitted.

The education of children became a challenge, however, because many families needed to devote their entire daily life to survival. The struggle between survival and education led the Puritans to pass the first education law in 1642. It required responsible men to check in on parents in order to ensure they were educating their children. These men were

to take account from time to time of all parents and masters and of their children concerning their calling and employment of their children especially of their ability to read and understand the principles of religion and the capital laws of this country.1

Early education, infused with Christian principles, used the Bible as a primary textbook. The school law of 1647 in Massachusetts, propagated just five years after the Puritans passed their law, contained the following statement: “It being one chief project of that old deluder, Satan, to keep men from the knowledge of the Scriptures.” 2 The residents of these new colonies saw education as a means of ensuring that people could read the words of Jesus for themselves and thereby avoid being misled by Satan.

Other textbooks revealed Christian perspective. The New England Primer, the first reading primer published in the American colonies, was first published around 1688 and used for two hundred years. This book included “The Lord’s Prayer”; “Morning Prayer for a Child”; “The Sum of the Ten Commandments”; “A Dialogue between Christ, a Youth and the Devil”; and children’s stories that taught Christian character and values.

As the colonies matured, the founding fathers recognized the need for citizens defined by their Christian worldview. They didn’t separate their belief in Christ from their belief in a free country but rather used their belief in Christ to justify their belief in a free country. Benjamin Franklin is credited with saying, “A nation of well-informed men who have been taught to know and prize the rights which God has given them cannot be enslaved. It is in the region of ignorance that tyranny begins.”3

The words of Samuel Adams (1722–1803) sum up the attitude of these early leaders: Let divines and philosophers, statesmen and patriots, unite their endeavors to renovate the age, by impressing the minds of men with the importance of educating their little boys and girls, of inculcating in the minds of youth the fear and love of the Deity and universal philanthropy, and in subordination to these great principles, the love of their country; of instructing them in the art of self-government, without which they never can act a wise part in the government of societies, great or small; in short, of leading them in the study and practice of the exalted virtues of the Christian system.4

1 Glenn, Charles Leslie. The American Model of State and School an Historical Inquiry. (New York: Bloomsbury, 2012. 32).

2 The Old Deluder Act (1647); From the Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England (1853), II: 203

3 “Benjamin Franklin (1706–1790).” Benjamin Franklin Quotes. American History Central, n.d. Web. 01 July 2015.

4 Wells, William V. The Life and Public Services of Samuel Adams: With Extracts from His Correspondence, State Papers, and Political Essays. Vol. 3 (Boston: Little, Brown, 1865). 300.

This blog post has been adapted from How Jesus Changed the World. You can read more about it here.
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The Impact of Jesus on Caring for Those in Need

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.

The writer of the book of James echoed Jesus’ passion for the poor, saying, “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27).

Efforts to help the poor and needy of the world greatly intensified in the twentieth century. The advent of television and radio made it possible for Christian charitable organizations to reach many and recruit broad support for large causes.

One of the biggest of these modern-day charities remains World Vision. Originally founded in 1950, World Vision aims to increase awareness about hungry and poor people. Within a few years of their founding, they pioneered the system of individual sponsorship used to help the impoverished around the world.

World Vision now works in nearly one hundred countries providing child protection, disaster relief, economic development, education, food, refugee aid, health care, and agriculture.

Many Christian institutions desire to combat poverty. These include Food for the Hungry, Samaritan’s Purse, Feed My Starving Children, and many others. While they hope to relieve the suffering of the poor, they each look for creative ways to bring a broad range of services to those in these impoverished countries.

Because government bureaucracies move slowly to provide disaster relief, the church and parachurch organizations have designed quick response teams that bring relief after a natural disaster.

Christian agencies like Samaritan’s Purse provide rapid emergency assistance through the relationships they already have with churches in the area. By providing instant infrastructure and relief, Samaritan’s Purse helps local churches become the centers of help. Samaritan’s Purse provides emergency relief through meeting the people’s daily needs—giving them blankets, food, personal hygiene supplies, and cooking utensils. They build medical facilities and provide medicine and other essential supplies to people who have suffered through a natural disaster. They also provide emergency shelters for those who have lost their homes.

This blog post has been adapted from my book How Jesus Changed the World. You can learn more about it here

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Rethink Your Priorities

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Wherever your treasure is, there the desires of your heart will also be. 

Daily demands, like nature, abhor a vacuum. Give them an opening, and they will rush to fill it, regardless of their importance (or unimportance). Along the way, more important matters get nudged to the margins.

The Bible deftly illustrates how priorities get shifted:

As Jesus and the disciples continued on their way to Jerusalem, they came to a certain village where a woman named Martha welcomed him into her home. Her sister, Mary, sat at the Lord’s feet, listening to what he taught. But Martha was distracted by the big dinner she was preparing. She came to Jesus and said, “Lord, doesn’t it seem unfair to you that my sister just sits here while I do all the work? Tell her to come and help me.”

But the Lord said to her, “My dear Martha, you are worried and upset over all these details! There is only one thing worth being concerned about. Mary has discovered it, and it will not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:38–42)

The passage makes clear that Martha’s heart was in the right place. Her intentions were honorable. She busied herself making sure her guests were properly cared for—which, in a culture that prized hospitality, was no small matter. Yet along the way, she lost sight of what mattered even more.

The way to combat such derailment in the coming year is to eliminate the vacuum—to make a conscious decision to give proper time to the most deserving matters first. Here’s how.

How you spend your time is the truest indicator of your priorities—not what you say or mean to do. If you say your family is your top priority, yet you regularly sacrifice family time for work, then it’s time to come clean and admit that your work matters more to you than your family. If you spend most of your family time staring at your phone, then your social media friends matter more to you than your family since they get the lion’s share of your mental energy. The more transparent you are in assessing your current priorities, the more effective you’ll be in changing them.

This is the place to project your good intentions and best-case scenarios. In a perfect world, what would your priorities look like? Where would God rank? How about your family, your job (or education), friends, social media, pastimes, fitness regimen, free time, and so on?

Compare your two lists. Identify one or two things that need to move up or down, and brainstorm practical ideas for making that happen. For example, if social media needs to become a lower priority for you, brainstorm a set of rules to govern your screen time. You might consider banning all personal devices during family time or restricting their use until just before bedtime.

Let’s say you want to make family a higher priority, but you’re finding it difficult due to the demands of your job. Brainstorm ideas for connecting with your family during your downtime at work. For example, you could occasionally meet your spouse or children for lunch or use breaks to text or call them. If you can’t always give them your physical presence, at least devote your mental and emotional attention to them.

Share your plans for rearranging your priorities with someone you trust. (Your family is the most obvious choice to serve as accountability partners, since they have the biggest stake in your success.) Give them permission to confront you when your priorities get out of order. Invite them to help you stay on track in the new year.

This blog post was adapted from Unlock the Bible's Secrets, which is a special-edition that is now available in stores.
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Lead by Example

, by Christopher D. Hudson

Do not provoke your children to anger by the way you treat them. Rather, bring them up with the discipline and instruction that comes from the Lord. 

Child-rearing experts agree that most of the instruction parents give their children is communicated non-verbally. Children are keen observers—and followers—of their parents.

That thought can be a little disconcerting to parents who remember moments when their actions were less than exemplary. Yet it should offer hope as well. In the upcoming year, you can set an example for your kids to follow—one that will impact the rest of their lives. Here are four specific areas to focus on.

How many interactions do you have in a given day, counting everyone from your close friends and neighbors to servers in restaurants, store clerks, and complete strangers? Each interaction is a teachable moment if your kids are present. If you show grace, humor, patience, concern, and understanding—even (and especially) when things aren’t going right—you will make a lasting positive impression on your children.

As you start the new year, let kindness be your guide in all your interactions. Make a habit of putting yourself in other people’s shoes and treating them the way you would want to be treated in similar circumstances.

One who is humble is quick to listen and slow to speak. A humble parent resists the urge to one-up others in conversation. He or she consistently gives praise to God for the blessings in life. Most of all, a humble parent quietly models Jesus’ behavior for his or her kids.

This means thinking before you react. It means you recognize and reward good behavior as readily as you discipline in response to bad behavior. It is important to make sure your kids understand why they are being rewarded or punished. If you can maintain a steady demeanor in good times and bad, you will set a healthy tone for your household. Your kids will see you as someone who is just (even when they don’t like the consequences)—someone who rewards and disciplines in equal measure. They will see you as someone whose example is worth following.

Be quick to commiserate and come alongside your spouse and children when they’re hurting or struggling. But when possible, help them see things from a different angle—that is, help them see the positive aspects of the challenges they face. Be realistic; acknowledge the struggles they face. But try to be the person your family members seek out when they need to feel better about a difficult situation.

This blog post was adapted from the special-edition magazine Unlock the Bible's Secrets, which is now available in stores.
read more