The Heart of Education: Wisdom

Jul 26, 2019

At various times I get the opportunity to speak to groups at the beginning at the school year. I often deliver some variation of the following—especially as it leads to a beautiful picture of what a wise, generous, and truly loving person looks like.

There’s a very real question about why we do what we do. What is our hope and goal in creating this community and teaching these classes, assigning reading and making our students write papers? There are lots of places that one can go for information but few concerned with the aspect of formation. We should be far more interested in who our children become than in what they do.

Henri Nouwen bluntly gets to that point when he writes, “The question is not: How many people take you seriously? How much are you going to accomplish? Can you show some results? But: Are you in love with Jesus?”

Are you? Is it love of Jesus that compels you to sharpen and hone the gifts He has given you so that you might more effectively serve? Is it love of Jesus that changes your priorities from selfish and empty pursuits to serving the needs of others? Is it love of Jesus that swells within you and overflows in awe and wonder and gratitude for this world that He has made, ordered, and sustained by the word of His power? Does this wonder and gratitude extend to glimpsing His hand at work in the movement of men and nations, the rise and fall of empires and ideas, and the elements that make up His-story?

As we look to the future and the various leadership roles in which our students will serve, what will be the motivating factors when they are parents, pastors, educators, business owners, etc.?

Nouwen is also helpful in this regard as he discusses aspects of Christian leadership:

Christian leaders cannot simply be persons who have well-informed opinions about the burning issues of our time. Their leadership must be rooted in the permanent, intimate relationship with the incarnate Word, Jesus, and they need to find there the source for words, advice, and guidance. Through the discipline of contemplative prayer, Christian leaders have to learn to listen again and again to the voice of love and to find there the wisdom and courage to address whatever issue presents itself to them. Dealing with burning issues without being rooted in a deep personal relationship with God easily leads to divisiveness because, before we know it, our sense of self is caught up in our opinion about a given subject. But when we are securely rooted in personal intimacy with the source of life, it will be possible to remain flexible without being relativistic, convinced without being rigid, willing to confront without be offensive, gentle and forgiving without being soft, and true witnesses without being manipulative. (emphasis mine)

We seek to grow in wisdom for the purpose of knowing, serving, and loving God and knowing, serving, and loving our neighbor.

The purpose of our lives (and, by extension, our education) is to glorify God through the vocation he has given us—our mission in the world. The one thing we have to offer the unbelieving world eager for spirituality is the true Spirit of God. The glimmer of the transcendence of God that is a part of truly excellent creations is the most effective means of piercing the superficiality of the secular world. That which is beautiful, good, and true will ultimately point to the creator of all things.

Greg Wilbur

Greg Wilbur

Gregory Wilbur is Chief Musician at Cornerstone Presbyterian Church in Franklin, TN, as well as Dean and Senior Fellow of New College Franklin. He is the author of Glory and Honor: The Music and Artistic Legacy of Johann Sebastian Bach and has released two CDs of his compositions of congregational psalms, hymns and service music. 

The opinions and arguments of our contributing writers do not necessarily reflect those of the Institute or its leadership.

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