Minister's Moment: We All Need a Teacher
We All Need a Teacher
The end of school and the beginning of summer is a good time to reflect on our education. We all can remember at least one teacher (school, church—somewhere) who made a difference in our lives—one person who said something or did something that changed us from the person we were to the person we are.
I remember several. Four who stand out were my high school English teachers. I was blessed with some of the best in our school. Each taught me something about writing. I have often said that they are responsible for any ability I have today in that area.
By the luck of the draw I had Mrs. Hennessy for Freshman English. She got me started on the right path, and piqued my interest so that I qualified for honors English and journalism in my sophomore year. Mr. Solovay, who taught Sophomore honors English/journalism started me writing for the school newspaper. From then on I was hooked. I’m sure many of you have similar stories to tell.
When Paul refers to a “guardian” in this passage (KJV says “schoolmaster”), he uses the Greek word paidagogos. We know the English equivalent—“pedagogue.” The paidagogos was a slave whose sole duty was to keep the firstborn son out of trouble. He was, among other things, a disciplinarian who taught the young boy how to behave. The goal was to help the boy grow into the man who would possess the requisite knowledge and behavior patterns to function as the head of his own household. I’m sure there would have been times when the son chafed under the disciplined teaching of his pedagogue, just as we did—even with our favorite teachers.
The Galatians were being led astray by people who told them they had to strictly follow all the tenets of Jewish law in order to be Christians. In his letter Paul first establishes his own Jewish credentials. Nobody is going to top Paul in that area! Next he tells his readers that the law had held everyone captive before the coming of Jesus Christ. The law had been their paidagogos, their disciplinarian—but that was no longer necessary. With Jesus Christ came faith, and that faith superseded the law just as maturity did away with the need for a pedagogue for the grown son. Now they no longer needed a guardian, for they had “put on Christ.” As they had been clothed in a new garment at baptism they were now clothed with Jesus Christ. With faith they no longer needed to be disciplined.
Paul goes further. He says here, as elsewhere, that being clothed in Christ has removed all differences between people. Jews and Greeks are alike in God’s sight. Slaves and free persons are alike. Males and females are alike. Jesus Christ has brought about true equality among all people. We have all become equal heirs of the promise God made to Abraham so many centuries ago. When God told Abraham that his offspring would be as numberless as the stars, Paul says, God was including not just the physical descendents of Isaac, but all those who become Abraham’s children through faith in Jesus Christ.
Paul was wrong in one respect. We still need guidance. Most of us have learned, sometimes painfully, that leaving school and taking our place in the world as adults does not end our need for disciplining pedagogues. We still have lessons to learn that wiser, more experienced heads can teach us. While we can look to fellow Christians who have walked this road before us for spiritual guidance, let us remember that our most important teacher is the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is our Comforter, our Counselor, our Advocate with the Father—and our paidagogos.