As I was listening to the radio this week, the commentator was describing the murder of a mother and her three children whose car was set on fire by their father. She commented that this act was so horrendous that it was ‘beyond words.’ Almost unspeakable!

William Golding’s 1954 novel Lord of the Flies tells the story of a group of young boys alone on a deserted island after their plane crashed whilst they were being evacuated during the war. They develop rules and a system of organisation, but without the civilising presence of any adults, the children eventually become violent and brutal. It is a tale of their selfishness and the resultant descent of their lives together into chaos and hopelessness. How could these well-educated boys act in this way?  Golding, who once believed in the perfectibility of humanity said, “I must say anyone who moved through those years (WWII) without understanding that man produces evil as a bee produces honey, must have been blind or wrong in the head.”[1]

The generations alive today, are the first to live in a time when it is possible for our students to know about most of the world’s atrocities as they happen.

Technology has been used to intensify the scope and scale of evil in our modern world. Our children inhabit the virtual world of ‘Cyberspace’ that enhances evil. Social media has a ‘compare’ and ‘cancel’ culture that is leaving many young people feeling broken and living with a sense of hopelessness. Dr Scott Peck once commented that EVIL is LIVE spelt backwards for it diminishes and destroys the life that God designed us to have.

As education is a journey where students are becoming a certain kind of people, the way we answer the question, ‘what is the nature of our students’, will determine the effectiveness of the teaching and learning and the culture of our classes that we nurture.

Jesus was emphatic that our character reflects who we are at the central core of our being (our hearts) and that our heart orientation determines our life direction – how we respond to truth, make decisions, and behave (Luke 6:44,45). This means recognising that we and our students are flawed image-bearers who when we come into this world are alienated from God and live by self-rule. Our students need to go on the journey to be made alive again. If our students are to be genuine human beings, then we are leading them to an increasing closeness to Jesus, to know Him and grow in Him, as responsive disciples. The call of Jesus that we extend to them is a gracious invitation to trust Him, to surrender to Him and to live in the freedom and riches of that relationship for their greatest need is dependence upon God’s grace which arises from their discovery of God’s love for them in their independence and foolishness.

We can assist our students to delve into the understanding of heart orientation by asking deep questions in their learning, such as:

  1. Why do students bully one another?
  2. Why could the Holocaust occur in Germany that was a highly educated and nominally Christian country?
  3. Why do people have personal credit card debt when they have been taught the knowledge and skills to budget?
  4. Why is there so much injustice in the world?
  5. What is the impact of evil on creation?

In practice, students need to know what is happening to shatter God’s world. We can assist them to identify the idols of their age, such as materialism, hedonism, violence and sexualisation of relationships and see the impact of these in their own lives and culture.

They need to learn to acknowledge what is in their own hearts and identify evil’s impact throughout history and in their current context. The suffering Servant goes to the heart of darkness and all evil is laid upon Him. “If the willing victim who has committed no treachery is killed in the traitor’s stead, the stone table will crack and even death itself would turn backwards.”[2] The risen Christ has overcome chaos and now sets His people free.

So, our next commitment must be to develop a learning community where the relationships among staff and in the classes demonstrates grace and forgiveness.

Forgiveness is the gift of a humble person who willing passes on to others at great cost, the grace they have received in Christ, without condoning sinful deeds. It is the strongest form of love that can reverse a cycle of retaliation, injury, and vengeance. Teachers need to give opportunities for students who harm other students to own what they have done, participate in a disciplinary process, apologise, and receive forgiveness. This is the outworking of grace that enables the student to be restored to the class community. The teacher will pray that through this process God’s Spirit will work in their hearts to bring about true restoration. In this way the patterns of behaviour that are soul-sapping are not allowed to be embedded in the class.

May we be challenged by an excerpt of a letter written by a Holocaust survivor to educators, published in “Teacher & Child” by Dr Hain Ginott, child psychologist and author.

“I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness: gas chambers built by learned engineers, children poisoned by educated physicians … Women and babies shot by high school and college graduates. So, I am suspicious of education. Help your children to become human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths or educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only in that they serve to make our children more human.”

“Surely you desire truth in the inner parts, you teach me wisdom in the inmost place. Cleanse me with hyssop and I will be clean, wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.” Psalm 51:6,7


Grace and Peace
The TEC Team





[1] Os Guinness, Unspeakable: Facing Up to the Challenge of Evil, (New York: Harper Collins, 2006), 213.

[2] Clive Staples Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, (London: Geoffrey Bles, 1950), in Chapter 15 – Deeper Magic Before the Dawn of Time.