A teacher recently emailed me about integrating the fruit of the Spirit (Gal 5:22-23) into her class rules/guidelines. What a great idea! Rules and expectations are powerful because they guide thinking and behavior throughout the whole year. Therefore, biblically integrated rules/guidelines will help be a constant way for us to point students toward Christ. So what does it look like for a teacher to integrate their class rules?
We must start by considering the purpose of biblical laws/rules. There are three uses of biblical rules: 1) Like a mirror, the law reflects the perfections of God and the brokenness of mankind. 2) Like a road-sign, the law commands against evil actions. It is a dam against our rushing inclination to evil. 3) Like a map, it shows believers how to live in ways that actively please God. In essence, biblically integrated rules should help the non-Christian student see the need to follow Christ and help the Christian student to see how to follow Christ. The rules should call both types of students to follow Christ in the way that is appropriate for where they are.
Biblically integrated classroom rules should accomplish all three uses aims listed above. Let’s look at the fruit of the Spirit to get a picture of how this might work.
Our key verses are Galatians 5:22-23:, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” As we read carefully, we should note some key things. How many fruits of the Spirit are there? One. This is an important fact: there are not fruits of the Spirit. There is only one fruit. The word “fruit” is singular. Love, joy, peace, etc. are all part of the same fruit. Why does this matter? Because there is only one type of life that comes from being filled with the Spirit–a life of godliness. Believers recognize that a person cannot be loving with also being kind, good, faithful, etc.
And where does this fruit come from? The Spirit. These are not fruits of the Christian, but of the Spirit of Christ. We see this confirmed in Philippians 1:11 where Paul speaks of the “fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God.” Where does our righteousness come from? Christ Jesus. We can live for Him only by the righteousness that is ours through his atonement for us. He is the One who makes his people godly. But that does not mean that He does not use our efforts.
If we rewind a little to look at Galatians 5:16-17, we hear Paul say, “Walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.” God commands that his people choose to walk by the Spirit. This means putting in effort to obey.
Now that we have a basic background study done on our passage, we can turn it into a set of rules. For example, you might write something like:
In this class, we are pursuing godly attitudes and actions that reflect Jesus’ perfect:
When we succeed, we thank God for helping us. When we fail, we look to Him for forgiveness.
Now, this might look like a simple list from the verses, but it is actually more than that. The introductory line points students to Christ as the perfect example. We try to reflect Him. The closing line shows that God is the One who empowers us to live in a way that pleases Him.
Ultimately, when students see this list of guidelines/rules, the lost see a wonderful picture of Christ. They are constantly reintroduced to the God who pursues his people. Those who know Jesus get a clear picture of what it looks like to honor Christ. All are called to the same standards of behavior. Therefore, this list based on the fruit of the Spirit fulfills all three uses of the law.
While I used Galatians 5:22-23 for this example of integrated rules, there are many ways that a teacher could go. There are are a million ways to integrate your class rules/guidelines. Other great passages that you might use are Colossians 3:12-14, Matthew 22:37-40, and a ton of others. I think that you will find integrating your guidelines/rules valuable. It will take a little work and creativity now, but it will pay dividends throughout your year to come.