In Galatians 5:22, Paul states, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; against such things there is no law.” Earlier, Jesus had said, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33).
Fruit of the Spirit’s Ideals
As Christian educators, we should want to be known and remembered as good trees that produce good fruit. The spiritual nutrition that a “good fruit” can provide is immeasurable. Can our faith be exercised, and education exist in unison? I believe they must, while being inclusive and respectful of diverse beliefs. The intersection of faith and the public school is where students’ lives can be impacted and where students can eat “good fruit.” The impact that one educator can make on a student can have lifelong effects. The exemplification of virtues of the Fruit of the Spirit can resonate throughout a student’s life. These ideals are encouraged in the Elementary Education program at Trinity – Florida.
Importance of Christian beliefs in education
Faith and education can coexist and serve different purposes. Faith provides a sense of purpose, meaning and belief in God. Education equips us with knowledge, critical thinking skills and the ability to understand the world. As a Christian within the public school system, how my faith can be or is infused into my daily work routine must be approached with caution. Each time I share my beliefs and my faith, I am cognizant of the audience. Often, I preface my faith statement(s) and opinion with a disclaimer that the words are mine and not those of the public entity. Faith can provide a moral framework that can help students navigate complex ethical issues and decisions. As I share my faith in God, it must be seen as a personal expression in a non-coercive manner. My Christian faith is an integral part of my identity. An identity in Christ that should be recognizable as a result of my actions towards students and other personnel.
The exhibition of Christian beliefs in education
One of the ways that Christian beliefs can be exhibited is through the Fruit of the Spirit. The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Each virtue of the Fruit of the Spirit can be exercised separately and or in unison. We should show the Fruit of the Spirit in deed and in action. To demonstrate the “Fruit of the Spirit” educators can:
- Model Behavior: Teachers can exhibit love, patience, kindness, and other virtues in their interactions with students and colleagues.
2. Incorporate Lessons: Design lessons that emphasize these virtues through stories, examples and discussions to help students understand their practical applications.
3. Encourage Reflection: Prompt students to reflect on how they can practice these virtues in their daily lives, both within and outside of the classroom.
4. Reward Positive Behavior: Recognize and praise students when they exhibit these virtues, reinforcing their importance.
5. Provide Opportunities: Organize activities that allow students to demonstrate love through acts of service, joy through creativity and self-control in managing challenges.
6. Open Dialogue: Create an open environment where students feel comfortable discussing and exploring these virtues and their relevance.
7. Collaborative Projects: Assign group projects that require cooperation, empathy and understanding, fostering teamwork and mutual respect.
8. Conflict Resolution: Teach students conflict resolution skills that involve understanding, empathy and forgiveness.
9. Role Models: Share stories of historical figures or modern individuals who exemplify the “Fruit of the Spirit” virtues.
As an expression of their Christian beliefs, educators can serve as positive role models, demonstrating the values of the Fruit of the Spirit. We can share personal stories of how the exemplification of the Fruit of the Spirit is used to inspire and motivate students. We can achieve this through practicing empathy, treating others with kindness and respect, maintaining a positive attitude while showing understanding. By consciously striving to exercise the Fruit of the Spirit, we must encourage students to apply these values in their interactions with others. Integrating these virtues into education can help to foster a compassionate learning environment; a learning environment that encourages students to develop academically, as well as morally and socially. Educators can model these virtues that can be incorporated into a school wide culture. Kindness, goodness and gentleness can contribute to respectful interactions. Love can foster a supportive classroom community; joy can make learning more engaging, and patience can encourage perseverance in challenging situations. Self-control can help students manage impulses and distractions. Currently, there is a nationwide emphasis on youth mental health as a result of the pandemic. As is evident with the post pandemic trending hashtag #kindness, where youth are being prompted to be kind to each other. It should be noted that kindness is one of the virtues of the Fruit of the Spirit. Across the country, school-based youth mental health initiatives focus on Social and Emotional Learning (SEL). At the core of SEL is the Fruit of the Spirit.
See where faith can take you
As we incorporate the virtues of the Fruit of the Spirit, it cannot only lead to academic success but also to the development of strong character and ethical values. As Christians in the public school system, we must be known and remembered as the “good trees” with “good fruit.” We acknowledge the secular approach of public schools but must not let it deter us from allowing people to see God in us.
Kim Bryan, Ed.D is an Adjunct Professor at Trinity International University, Florida. (tiu.edu/florida)
For more articles on faith, visit https://www.goodnewsfl.org/topic/god/active-faith/