The Great Reconciler
by Harmony Bell Olabode
Reconciliation is difficult—can we agree? In my experience, it’s been challenging to reconcile all of the ways in which my identity intersects—race, gender, faith, etc., with everything else around me, including the classroom. Thankfully, the Master Teacher offered the greatest example of bringing about reconciliation by dying so that restoration between humanity and the Creator could be realized. Yes, He was Jewish, and yet He reached to those belonging to other ethnic groups and nationalities. But what I, as a teacher, am most struck by is His wisdom in extending compassion and long-suffering for those who did not care to understand Him. Think of the Pharisees (teachers in their own right!) who often sought to “catch” Him breaking a law. Or the Scribes, whose followers questioned His teachings in attempts to challenge His authority as Teacher.
Amazingly, the Master Teacher didn’t suspend His intellect or wisdom, but He integrated them with the level of compassion appropriate to the situation. This, I think, is a difficult exercise, and one impossible without the indwelling of the Spirit. The Master Teacher dealt well with the power dynamic at play in all of His encounters with naysayers–those that would seek to malign His position and identity. What did he do? He “remembered” His position and repeated the Words of His Father. He spoke truth to lies.
Position and power are at the heart of most divisions, I would argue, and it stems from our need to, as the Pharisees and Scribes sought to do, usurp and replace His position with ours, wanting to worship the creation instead of the Creator. And as a TOC (Teacher of Color), I’ve struggled with navigating how I should deal with position and power in the classroom. There are days I have felt the need to double down in regard to asserting my position as an authority figure because it has felt challenged by students and colleagues alike (both overseas and in the U.S.). How could a black woman speak Mandarin Chinese fluently? Especially when there are few examples of white teachers in my area who can? Am I really speaking and teaching standard English, and not Ebonics? And so, I must return to the Master Teacher for guidance. He reminds me that He equipped and placed me in every position I am in, and that the power that raised Him from the dead is the same power I inhabit, not a power to abuse my position, but to exemplify the longsuffering, wisdom, and compassion that He did, if ever so imperfectly, to my students (and colleagues). This is how I begin to build bridges of reconciliation in my mind and heart—remembering that reconciliation was freely given to me because the Master Teacher recognized His position and power, and laid them down when appropriate. And when is it appropriate? When the Spirit leads.
 John 4:4-26.
 Luke 11:53-54.
 Hebrews 11:6.
 John 6:39.
 Romans 1:25.
What’s your perspective?
We welcome your comments on any of the ideas in this post or in answer to the questions below.
- What parts of your God-given identity (gender, race, etc.) have you seen challenged by others in your work environment? How did you respond?
- In what subtle ways have you noticed self-challenging statements regarding the work of the Father in your life? How do you speak truth to these statements?
- In the classroom, what principles guide your efforts in bringing varying facets of reconciliation to bear?
Harmony Bell Olabode currently resides in St. Louis, MO and teaches TESOL at ESLi in Edwardsville, IL. She lived in Northern China for 8 ½ years and worked as a TESOL and Mandarin teacher. She holds an M.A. in Intercultural Studies from Wheaton College, and is currently working on a Masters with a double specialization in TESOL and Rhetoric and Composition at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. She is also trying to master the Yoruba language (Please pray for her!). She enjoys cross-cultural learning and sharing.
Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash