Friday morning (May 7) TLSP held its annual Honors Assembly recognizing outstanding students from our Lutheran Schools here in NE IN. We gathered in the sanctuary of St Paul Lutheran Church, Fort Wayne for prayer and for recognizing the achievements of students from each of the schools. The students were recognized as valedictorians and salutatorians, exceptional musicians, gifted athletes, academic achievements and strong leadership. In a perfect world, we would recognize each of the students who call a Lutheran school THEIR Lutheran school. Each student is a gift from God. Each is a gift, created by God.
So many honors. So many accomplishments. However, as appropriate it was to recognize the students, success and achievement are not the goals of Christian life. Those are the products of life well lived and grace shown by a loving God.
St Paul actually told the folks in Thessalonica “make it your ambition to live a quiet life.” (1 Thessalonians 4:11-12). Consider Jesus’ words to his disciples who asked to sit on the Savior's right and left of his heavenly reign. Jesus' response chided them and said, “...whoever would be great among you must be your servant,.... For even the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:43b-45)
In support of this quiet life is our Lord himself. Born in a manger. Triumphant entry on a donkey. Arrested, crucified and buried. Not exactly a message of “Look at me.” Jesus healed the sick and washed his disciples feet. It sure doesn't capture the American version of excellence.
What does striving toward excellence look like? In Christian life it's about love- love of neighbor in honoring and respecting authorities, leading a sexually pure life, taking care of your neighbor’s and your stuff, keeping your neighbor’s good name, and serving your neighbor.
Frankly, there’s no support in Scripture for making a name for yourself, reaping the benefits of working hard, gaining more property (especially at the expense of a neighbor), proving yourself over someone else’s point of view or calling out the wrongs of your neighbor. As usual, God has a much different way.
So we praise God for His most excellent way. And we praise God for our students, faith-filled people who through words and actions are and with God’s help will continue to be great examples of God’s grace.