It happened again yesterday.
At the end of high school chapel, Mr. Pettengill informed students that silverware is being thrown in the garbage at an alarming rate. As he urged students to be mindful of the receptacle into which they deposit their silverware, he encouraged them to live as resource stewards.
And then, right on cue, students snickered, scoffed, and rolled their eyes. Not all of them. But enough of them. And I’m glad they rolled their eyes.
As more and more teachers have experiences like this when ThroughLines are mentioned in class, it’s tempting to feel like we should ditch ThroughLines like those bangs from the 1980s. Someone thought that was a good idea, but we’re still not sure who.
Or maybe we could just talk about the ThroughLines less, like an “absence makes the heart grow fonder” type thing.
Here’s why I’m glad that students roll their eyes, and why their scoffs encourage me to talk about ThroughLines more, not less. I’m glad because every eye-roll is a gracious opportunity from God to help students see that their sinful nature is utterly incapable of stewarding resources for the glory of God and the good of others. Their sinful nature is entirely unable to discern idolatrous desires or enjoy creation as God’s gift without idolizing it. Not only do we lack the power and ability to live as this peculiar kind of person, but our sinful nature doesn’t even want to. We don’t want to treasure Christ. We don’t want to sacrifice ourselves for the good of our neighbor. We don’t want to build community beyond our cliques. We can’t and we won’t be the peculiar people of God–the kind of people described by the ThroughLines–without the miracle of regeneration.
“Jesus answered him, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God…. Do not marvel that I said to you, “You must be born again”‘” (John 3:3, 7).
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not glad that we have students who don’t want to treasure Christ or steward God’s gifts. I’m not glad, but neither am I surprised. God’s Word is unmistakably clear that sinful man apart from Christ cannot please God.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5).
What makes me glad is the way God is providing us with crystal clear opportunities to expose the sinful nature so that we can hold forth the glorious riches of Jesus Christ alone. I’m glad in the way that a doctor would be glad that a life-threatening condition was discovered just in time through the early detection of a barely-perceptible symptom. If the patient hadn’t noticed the symptom, he would never have turned to the doctor for the remedy. The eye rolling is not good news, but it gives me an opportunity to explain the beautiful hope of the Gospel.
Here’s what the hope of the Gospel is not. It’s not a formula or algorithm to calculate how frequently we should mention ThroughLines. It’s not a core practice from a cutting-edge, research-based instructional strategy. It’s not a method, a structure, or a technique.
Here’s how the New Covenant promise was delivered through Jeremiah:
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:33-34).
The promise of a new heart with new desires is now available in Christ and Christ alone. All who turn from their rebellious independence–trusting in idols; wasting God’s gifts on selfish pursuits; lying, cheating, robbing, or lusting after one’s neighbor–and depend on Jesus alone will receive a new heart. That heart doesn’t scoff at the idea of stewarding God’s gifts, it overflows with such gratitude expressing itself in joyful stewardship. That heart doesn’t scorn the idea of building community, it delights to express generous hospitality to others, having been welcomed by Christ. Regenerated hearts don’t mock the opportunity to discover the order of God’s world, they rejoice in every glorious display of their God who upholds the universe by the word of his power.
As Christian educators, we do not merely disseminate information into the open receptacles of brain containers. We point out the glories of God revealed in his Word and in his world to students who are human beings, fallen human beings. Therefore, we’re not surprised by fallen responses because we are teaching for the transformation of their hearts of stone. When students roll their eyes, let us rejoice that God has given us an opportunity to magnify Jesus, our only hope.