Contributed by Jennifer Krausz, Bethlehem, Pa.
Have you ever posted anything negative about anyone on the internet? What was the reaction or the result?
Student Suspended for Facebook Posting
Justin Bird of Oak Forest, Illinois was suspended from the high school where he is a sophomore for posting a Facebook fan page against his teacher, in which he made a derogatory remark about her.
He has had problems with the teacher since the beginning of the school year at Oak Forest High School, where he is a high honors student. He created the Facebook fan page on February 9. It was active for five days before he took it down on February 14, gaining about 50 fans but no postings other than his. The page was “for anyone who has had a bad experience or just plain dislikes” the teacher.
The day after he took the page down he was called into the dean’s office and suspended. His parents are considering legal action against the school because they say the page was created entirely at home and not at school. They question whether a school has the right to suspend a student for actions taken outside of school. No threats of any kind were made against the teacher.
Recently, the federal courts ruled that a Florida student could sue her school to remove a 2007 suspension from her record because of a negative Facebook post against her teacher. The judge ruled that Facebook posts made outside of school time and property fall under the umbrella of free speech.
1. Have you ever had a teacher that you just clashed with from the beginning? How did you handle the situation?
2. Do you think a school should have the right to punish a student for something done outside of school time and off school property?
3. What do you think the school should do about students who post derogatory comments about teachers on social networking sites?
4. How would you feel if you were a teacher and negative comments were posted against you on the internet?
Scripture Texts (NRSV) for Sunday, March 7, 2010 (Third Sunday in Lent)
(Text links are to Oremus Bible Browser. Oremus Bible Browser is not affiliated with or supported by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. You can find the calendar of readings for Year C at Lectionary Readings.)
For lectionary humor and insight, check the weekly comic Agnus Day.
So many times Jesus shows refreshing common sense. In a world where common sense often seems lacking, especially among the powerful who set up the rules we live by, Jesus sets everyone straight about what is really important. Or at least, he tries.
The religious leaders of the time had rules about everything: How you had to wash before you ate, touched other people, came to the temple, or cooked food. How you prayed, how you made sacrifices, and of course, what work you were allowed to do (or not do) on the Sabbath. There were more than 600 different rules which governed every part of their lives.
The problem, as Jesus saw it, was that these rules were getting in the way of doing what God really wants. He wants people to look at their hearts. Instead they just looked at the rules and whether everyone else was following them. In a sense, the rules were taking the place of having a real, personal relationship with God. When Jesus said, “Repent,” it was really a call for the religious leaders to look at their hearts, turn to God, and realize that loving and serving other people is more important than following hundreds of laws.
Sometimes we can technically follow all the rules, but our hearts are nowhere near where they should be. We may be full of resentment about the rules, or we may feel that we are better than other people because we followed the rules and they didn’t. Jesus knows that our hearts need to be focused on loving God and loving our neighbors. When our hearts are in the right place, we will be more likely to do the right things for the right reasons.
- Do you follow the rules even when they don’t seem to make sense? Why or why not?
- If Justin Bird met Jesus face-to-face, how do you think their conversation about his teacher and the Facebook postings would go?
- What rules or laws would not be necessary in our society today if everyone focused their hearts on loving God and loving their neighbors as themselves?
- When you attend church, are you more concerned with following all the rules and procedures or on focusing your heart toward loving God and others? How do you think your congregation would change if everyone focused more on loving God and others and less on following its own written and unwritten rules?
- Many people have a negative view of the church today because they think it has too many rules to follow. (It is interesting how, even with Jesus and his example of not letting the rules get in the way, humanity tends to go in that direction eventually) Brainstorm some ways that your congregation can go out into your community and show people outside the church that you are more focused on loving each other and them than on following the rules. (Note: Even though you aren’t going to focus on the rules, this exercise is not about law-breaking or immoral behavior.) For example, you might go into a busy area and give away bottles of water, or cups of coffee, just to be nice and serve the community. Many congregations have attracted new members and helped people come to faith in Jesus by showing them love, rather than emphasizing rules.
- This could be very controversial. As a group, talk about the written or unwritten rules in your congregation. Are there any that get in the way of knowing and loving God? Do any hinder members from loving those inside and outside the church?Set a time to talk with your pastor or a member of church council (or the governing body of the congregation). The goal of this meeting is not to attack the rules or the leadership. First, ask questions about why the rules exist and what their purpose might be. The group may learn that the rules have a good purpose and can help rather than hurt. Very gently, share the group’s lesson from today and your concern over the rules the group listed. Listen to what the pastor or leader has to say and ask him or her to consider the group’s concerns.The purpose here is to foster understanding and share possible concerns, not to make trouble or necessarily change anything.
God of love, we pray that our hearts will ever seek to know you better. Help us follow your two greatest commandments, to love you and love our neighbors as ourselves. May our actions be pleasing to you as we follow in your ways and, when the world looks at your church and the people in it, may it see your love rather than burdensome rules. We pray in Jesus’ name. Amen.