Staying True to Your Faith,
Without Offending Others
by Professor Joe Martin
As an educator, speaker, and author, who also happens to be a
born-again Christian, I’m constantly asked by fellow Christian educators
(especially new teachers), “How do you share your faith at school without
violating the law of Separation of Church and State and offending others?”
These are actually two separate questions that demand two separate answers. To the
first part of the question, I usually respond, “I’ll take God out of the
classroom when they promise to take the devil out first.” To the second part of
the question, I usually quote Bill Cosby, who said, “I don’t know the key to
success, but the key to failure is to try to please everybody.”
quite obvious this is a very sensitive topic – so much so, that those who may be
reading this article may stop reading after the preceding paragraph. And that’s
okay, I understand.
But for the rest of you who are reading this, you know
how serious this topic really is. Over the past 15 years I’ve been an educator, I’ve
been questioned, confronted, and challenged (by administrators, colleagues, parents, and
students) for expressing my faith more times than I care to remember. However, when I
explain to them that I’m not “evangelizing,” they soon realize that I’m
only “expressing” what “I” believe, not what “they”
should or choose to believe; that’s their choice.
Would you ask me to deny my African American heritage?
What about my educational background, successes, or even my past experiences? All of
these “things” are part of my teaching DNA, including my faith.
The truth of the matter is, I can no easier separate my faith from who I am as a
teacher, than I can separating my masculinity from my identity. Every word, thought, and
action that proceeds from my being is colored by my beliefs – whether I like it or
not. In other words, as the saying goes, “What you ARE speaks so loudly that I can’t
hear what you’re saying.”
With that being said, how do you still
allow yourself the freedom to express your faith, without offending and abusing the
freedom of others? As a Christian, I have an obligation to share my faith with others,
but at the same time, I’m commanded to respect others and obey authority. So, how
do you walk that line? Well, here are five simple things I would suggest (or at least
what I’ve tried to do over the past 15 years of teaching):
1. Be an
example to others, not an excuse.
The best way to draw people to
truth (that which you believe) is to walk in it. In other words, live a life (in and out
of school) that is consistent with your spiritual beliefs. As a Christian (or any other
religion), it is critical that you "walk your talk." As a Christian, when I screw up
(which is often), I must confess it, seek forgiveness, and then not repeat it (the
mistake). And whenever I do succeed, I give honor to God and try to remain humble. In
other words, you want to make sure your behavior matches your beliefs.
Don't be judgmental.
As a believer, don't go around preaching to
others; you don’t need to do it if you’re setting a good example. Whenever I
find myself in disagreement with anyone, whether it’s a student or fellow
colleague, I try to do it graciously (as not to judge), and then I ask God (silently) to
give me the words to share BEFORE I speak.
In other words, before you
respond to “non-believers” as well as other Christians, ask God, "What will
my next words and actions say about you Lord?" You must remember, you’re God's
ambassador (i.e., you represent Him). You're his mouthpiece to those who don't know Him
like you do. Also remember, it's God's job to judge, not ours. You don't have to condone
bad behavior, but you don't have to criticize it either. Always try to respond in
3. Let others SEE (openly) how you deal with a crisis.
It's important for others to know that Christians are NOT perfect, just protected
(by the Holy Spirit) as well as forgiven. Let them see how you handle adversity with
grace and peace. Nothing grabs someone's attention like being cool under pressure.
Remember in the Bible when the disciples thought the storm was going to destroy
their boat and kill them? Do you remember what Jesus was doing? That's right, He was on
the boat sleeping. You hear me, sleeping! Trust me, that got the disciples attention
better than any sermon he could preach. Show students and colleagues what you do and how
you respond when storms come YOUR way.
4. Share your story.
Whenever the time is right (the Holy Spirit will let you know), don't be ashamed to
share "your story" about where God has brought you from. I can tell you personally, I’ve
never been compelled to share my story during class or in a faculty meeting; it’s
always been one-on-one and in private.
Let others know what you used to do,
how you used to speak, how you used to respond, and where you used to be BEFORE you met
Christ and built a relationship with Him. Tell them about God's saving grace and how far
He has brought you. In other words, share your testimony. Remember, let the Holy Spirit
direct you on the timing.
5. Pray without ceasing.
the best things you can do for your students and colleagues (as well as your entire
school) is to intercede on their behalf by praying for them. Stand in the gap for them
by approaching the throne of God boldly on their behalf. Ask God to use you as a vessel
to bless them and to lead them to truth. Ask God to let your life shine before them so
they can see His great work in you. Ask God to draw them nearer to Him because of
I hope this helps a little for those of you, like me, who feel a sincere
burden for those you serve in your school. Whether you share my faith or not, we all
have the same mission when it comes to teaching – and that’s to make a
positive difference in the lives of our students. For those of you who are believers,
continue to trust God on this matter. He knows your heart and your desire to see others
walk in truth. Just make sure you don't get ahead of God. Trust Him and let Him direct
As always, teach with passion, and remember to practice what you
Joe Martin is an award-winning national speaker, author,
professor, and educational consultant. His mission is to help students,
teachers, and administrators learn, lead, and live with purpose and passion. To
find out more visit his web site at https://www.NewTeacherUniversity.com.
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