What Math Teaches Us
I was interested to see, via Tim Challies, this article entitled “The Myth of ‘I’m Bad at Math‘” at The Atlantic. For just yesterday, in teaching on discipleship, I fell back on my experience as a math teacher and shared the following (you can ask my students!):
The word for “making disciples” is just one word in the Greek (matheteuw). It means to make learners, pupils, or students out of people. We get English words like man (so called because he is a “thinking” being), mind, and mental from this word. Yet it entails far more than mere mental understanding. That is why this word also gives us English words denoting fields of mental practice, such as ”medicine” and “mathematics” which are derived from it. To become a disciple means then that you put yourself under the correcting influence of another who will shape and mold your life, so that you “learn the practice.”
One thing I always encountered in the math classroom is that many students do not like math. What I discovered though is that it is not so much the math they do not like, but the discipline associated with the math. They want to do their own thing when it comes to math. They do not like to be corrected. They do not want to follow the examples as specified in the book and by the teacher. These students fail to learn the practice. So often I would tell a failing student that the problem they were having with math was not with their mind, but with their heart. They would not accept seriously the correction and guidance that was being offered. And it is precisely here where we begin to see the connection between disciple and a related word, discipline.
You see, if you are going to have disciples, then there is going to have to be some discipline. We see this most clearly with our children. We know that our children are to be made into disciples of the Lord through discipline. We are to be involved in shaping, correcting, encouraging, molding, spanking them – all God-given ways to love them into the kingdom. Spiritually speaking, if we are going to make disciples in the church, we must do likewise.
Discipleship means life and death, a separation of the righteous from the wicked. True biblical discipleship demonstrates that in the only place that it can, in the context of the covenant community of the church. Members of churches must “learn the practice” of following Christ, and gain both an appreciation of the blessing of faithfulness as well as learning the consequences for disobedience. The message in disciple-making churches must be loud and clear: If you come to Christ and His church, you must live in the fear of the Lord, walk in holiness, and avoid evil.
This also reminded me of the Math Pep Talk I like to give. Math teaches us what Christ the Creator of math does. We should not despise discipline (Proverbs 13:11-12).