Since I claimed to want Jesus to be Lord of my life, I wanted Him to be the Lord of my teaching philosophy. I wanted this not to be an “add-on” or an addition to the house; I wanted it to be at the very foundation   I wanted this philosophy to be connected to multiplying images of God.

My teaching philosophy statement is posted on my UVA homepage – so this is digitally quite visible, not buried somewhere in an administrator’s file cabinet, it reads:

“My colleagues in the Department of Religious Studies might contend that the most prominent image or picture of the Christian faith is the crucifix. For me, as a teacher, it is the picture of Jesus washing the feet of his disciples. The scene illustrates the upside-down and paradoxical biblical principle of leadership: the one who leads should be willing to serve; if you want to be first, you line up last.”

I endeavor to apply that picture to my teaching: if I want best to lead a class of students, I should be willing to serve them. My authority is linked to my willingness to serve my students.

No matter what I teach, I think it’s possible to serve my students and to let them know that I’m  a follower of Jesus. First I do this by example, and in teaching economics, I can reference scriptural principles in a way that signals to students that I take the Bible seriously, not as a dead and worthless book.

The development of a Christian teaching philosophy turned out to be a very important event in my professional life. There are many times when I am about to short-change a student, or take an action that builds me up or makes my life easier—and then I am convicted by this image of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet.

One of the most profound and sobering teachings of the Christian faith is that I can serve Jesus indirectly by serving others directly—especially the students I have the privilege of teaching.