When I think about sanctification, the term used to signify being set apart or to be made holy, I am equally excited, grateful, and impatient. No one expects me to be perfect, yet it is something that I long for–being free of sin, guilt, shame. I also know that sanctification comes at a cost. The process isn’t easy; in fact, it’s often painful. But it is necessary.
The standard of sanctification is wrapped up in the “Greatest Commandment.” In Matthew 22:37, 38 (ESV), Jesus says, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment.” Whereas this command seems simple enough, it is the most difficult thing. We readily admit that we won’t live into this reality until we become like Him, in heaven. But what comes next is equally as difficult: “And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 22:39, 30).
These verses are foundational to our Christian schools: our mission and vision statements are wrapped in them; they are part of the very DNA of who we are and why we do what we do. These commands also give us a lens for why diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) work is so important for Christian schools. I would even argue that DEI is part of the sanctification process as it allows us to love and serve more fully.
Working as the Director of Diversity at Prestonwood Christian Academy for nearly two decades, I have needed to justify the need for my position and the work we are doing. I remind skeptics that diversity is biblical, something God affirmed from the beginning (Genesis 1:27) to the end (Revelation 7:9).
Let me delve deeper. First, diversity emanates from the creativity of God, and it is His desire that we love one another in our difference (see John 13:35). As I watch the world mishandle diversity, I remember that God’s people are called to be a light in a dark world, a beacon of hope and healing. God’s people should be leading the way in this conversation on diversity.
Second, we have the Bible to give us guidance and understanding on God’s design. As we at PCA examined the Word of God, we created an acronym to help us identify the areas of diversity that needed to be addressed. GRACE stands for Gender, Race, Age, Ability, Culture, and Economic Status.
Third, we have a community of believers from diverse backgrounds who understand the importance of training the next generation to think critically, speak intelligently, and act Biblically on issues of diversity. Dr. Chris Chow, a former board member at Prestonwood Christian Academy and founding diversity committee member, stated the value of competence in this area:
When diversity is properly harnessed through unity, it benefits an individual believer and a body of believers (through shared experiences and teaching) in several ways: stability in truth, maturity in knowing God more fully and Jesus Christ whom He sent… and edification of the body.
I am thrilled to work at a Christian school where diversity is addressed, celebrated, and expected. There are times when this experiment looks and feels like a Pandora’s Box, but I’ve come to appreciate that the educational process, while messy at times, is essential if we expect our students to reflect the heart of God to communities that are increasingly diverse. Too many of our Christian students are entering the arena under-prepared and under-equipped to address controversial and complex issues. When you look at your alums, I hope that you can say that your school faithfully equipped them for the challenges and opportunities they face. Over the next few weeks, I am grateful to partner with other diversity educators to hopefully equip you for the work needed in Christian schools surrounding DEI from a Biblical perspective. Each of us will showcase different areas of the work. Our desire is that our thoughts will spur you on to advance in your own personal and institutional work in this area. As with all sanctification, this is not an easy process, and it is not a quick process. But as we dialogue together, may we all learn more about God’s heart for his children and for Christian schools.
This article is the first in a series on diversity in the Christian school.
Jenny Brady brings a unique perspective to the diversity discussion. Jenny is currently serving as the Director of Diversity for Prestonwood Christian Academy, a position created to express her passion for diversity, equity and inclusion while combining her personal experience growing up in Honduras. She holds a MS in Sociology and a BA in Spanish. In the educational realm, Jenny has worked as a teacher and administrator, and is on the Leadership Team at PCA. She is the co-creator of the Christian Educators Diversity Alliance, co-creator of the podcast GRAACE360, and is a speaker, teacher, author and trainer on diversity, equity and inclusion for schools across the country.