Why can’t we just get along?


Why can't we all get along?

On March 14, 2018, seventeen people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas high school in Florida. Following the shooting, throughout early 2018, thousands of students in the US walked out of class in protest. School shootings dominate the media, but in reality, school violence is happening beyond the media coverage.

Students see stories of violence everyday. According to a 2017 Barna study, over half of American adults surveyed say that violent outbursts, like school shootings, originate from familial dysfunction. When students begin to feel like their lives are getting out of their control, conflict arises. It may show itself outwardly, but it will start and continue to grow within. Students begin to compare and wonder what life would be like, “if only.”

Students often see violence being countered with more violence, seen through Twitter wars and angry hate shaming through conversations. As a youth leader, answer their questions by offering them the way of peace. As students see more and more conflict, they need to be pointed to Jesus as the peacemaker. At Summit, we invite students to step into difficult cultural events like protests and debates. We encourage them to engage through the lens of curiosity. This type of curiosity leads to asking questions and building relationships in which truth can be spoken.

Students need to know that they are meant for community. They can overcome conflict and live at peace with those around them.

Shalom is Jesus’s response to conflict. Shalom promotes unity rather than division because it recognizes that every person bears God’s image and has an eternal soul. In Matthew 5:44, Jesus said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” As students wrap their minds around what Jesus is calling them to, they will begin to understand the freedom they have been given through Christ. In a culture of “an eye for an eye,” students have the opportunity to trust the Lord and walk in freedom to love and not to hate. This is what happens when students respond with grace without compromising truth.

Christian Worldview Key

Students need to know they were created for community and they can overcome conflict to live at peace with those around them. Here are four things students can do right now to experience Jesus’s peace:

  • Replace anger with patience. Help students understand the importance of going to the Lord in the midst of anger and injustice, allowing him to work instead of taking matters into their own hands.
  • See God’s image in others. When conflict arises, students can easily jump to gossiping about others. Create an open dialogue with students to point them back to sin and God’s story of redemption for his children.
  • Be a peacemaker, not just a peacekeeper. Teach students to step into conflict with the intention of creating peace, not passively or actively avoiding it. Take the example of the woman at the well. Jesus pursued her in relationship to give her truth to set her free.
  • Never lose hope. Create space for students to speak into one another’s lives. Conversations with peers can lead to new perspectives and encouragement. We want to give struggling students an opportunity to hear they aren’t alone. Another thing this does is to point the conversation back to their helplessness and allow the group to lean on the Lord together for strength.

Message for Students

Jesus took the first step toward restoring shalom when he died on the cross, putting an end to the enmity between God and humanity. He is the key to shalom. Love isn’t just an idea; it’s a life given in our place.

Jeff Myers, The Secret Battle of Ideas about God (Colorado Springs, Colorado, David C. Cook, 2017).

Portions of this section come from chapters 9 and 10.

Notes

  1. Barna, “Does school violence begin in the Home?”, September 12, 2017.