Ethos and Values

CHRISTIAN VALUES

The Christian values and principles we adhere to as a school identify us as a community and confirm the ethos and culture promoted. The 14 values chosen have been carefully selected by the community so that everyone understands the purpose and meaning of each, and is clear about individual and collective responsibility towards upholding such principles. These values are depicted in the school hall, and we are reminded to give focus and context to the values during our times of collective worship. This is a very visual representation of our expectations of each other and the way in which we carry out our daily interactions.

Koinonia

(See also our Koinonia dish & information in the school foyer)

The use of the original Greek work emphasises the strength and importance of this concept within the Christian faith.

Koinonia means ‘that which is in common’ and is often translated as ‘fellowship’ or ‘community’. Other translations might include ‘union’, ‘partnership’, or ‘being yoked together’. A yoke is a shaped piece of wood that goes across the shoulders, often lining two animals. By combining their strength, it helps work to be done and burdens to be carried.

Koinonia expresses the quality of relationship within the Christian community. It is based on fellowship with Jesus. Through him, Christians share the relationship that Jesus has with God. In John 17, Jesus prays that all his followers may be ‘perfectly one’ as he and the Father are one. Through him, Christians become sons and daughters of God and therefore brothers and sisters of each other. They are all members of the same family. A central element of being a family is interdependence: all are needed and valued and each person is important to the whole. The same message is found in Paul’s image of the Christian community as the boy of Christ. Each member of the body shares the hoys ad sufferings of the others and each depends upon everyone else.

The foundation of Christian koinonia is Christ’s self- giving on the cross, the supreme demonstration of his love for all. We love because he loved us first.

For the first Christians, this was expressed in a genuine common life with shared meals, shared possessions and practical support for the poor. The Christian church today continues to serve not only those within the Christian community but any who are in need.

Love

(See also information about our services of agape).

The Bible indicates that love is from God. In fact, the Bible says ‘God is love.’ Love is one of the primary characteristics of God. Likewise, God has endowed us with the capacity for love, since we are created in His image. This capacity for love is one of the ways in which we are ‘created in the image of God.’                                                                                                           The Greek language (the language of the New Testament) uses two different words to describe and define love. The most commonly used Greek word translated ‘love’ in the New Testament is ‘agape.’ This love is represented by God’s love for us. It is a non-partial, sacrificial love probably best exemplified by God’s provision for us. ‘For God so loved (agape) the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.’ (John 3:16) The gift of God’s son as a provision for sin was given to all humans, regardless of who we are. God’s love is unconditional.

In contrast, our love is usually conditional and based upon how other people behave toward us. This kind of love is based upon familiarity and direct interaction. The Greek word ‘phile’ defines this kind of love, often translated ‘brotherly love.’ Phileo is a soulish (connected through our emotions) kind of love – something that can be experienced by both believers and non-believers. This is in contrast to agape, which is love extended through the spirit. Agape love requires a relationship with God through Jesus Christ since the non-regenerated soul is unable to love unconditionally. Agape love gives and sacrifices expecting nothing back in return.

Peace

The Hebrew term for peace, ‘shalom’, has a deep and complex meaning, encompassing much more than simply the absence of hostility or war.

Shalom includes ideas of healing and health, wholeness and well-being. It means harmony, stability and security within a community. It refers to relationships based on truth and righteousness, where people flourish because they are nurtured.

The Biblical picture of the age to come is one of Shalom. ‘Swords will be beaten into ploughshares’ … ‘the wolf shall live with the lamb… no-one shall hurt or destroy…’ (Isaiah 2:2-4; 11:1-9). Traditional enemies will live together contentedly and the people will be governed with wisdom, understanding and justice.

In Jesus’ message, peace is an almost tangible element. It is his gift to his disciples. Paul describes God as the God of peace, the Christian message is called the ’gospel of peace’ and peace is one of the ‘fruits of the Spirit’.

It seems that humankind has to learn and re-learn the message of peace. It does not come easily or automatically. We constantly fall back into hostility and suspicion. Peter, quoting the Psalms, says we must ‘seek peace and pursue it’ (1 Peter 3:11). Jesus blesses those who are ‘peacemakers’ and calls them ‘sons of God’.

It is noteworthy how often the word peace is used in parallel with the word ‘righteousness’. Peace cannot come by simply wishing it to be the case. Peace is founded on righteousness and justice. Christians are called to share in Christ’s work of restoring wholeness. The Christian vision in this respect is far-reaching and challenging: harmony between people, harmony between people and God, and harmony between humans and the whole created order. Psalm 34:14                                  Matthew 5:19 ‘Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.’

John 14:27 ‘Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.’

Hope

The Christian understanding of hope illustrates how trivial our everyday use of the word can be. We hope that it will not rain for the school sports day, or that the car will start or that the parcel will arrive tomorrow.

At a deeper level, hope is a universal human phenomenon. People hope for peace in time of war; food in time of famine; justice in time of oppression. Where hope is lost there is despair and disintegration. Hope generates energy and sustains people through difficult times. For some people, hope is so strong that it inspires self-sacrifice to turn hope into reality.

True hope is much more than a general idea that things will get better. It is more than a belief in progress, which sees the world and people as getting better all the time, growing away from violence, ignorance and confusion. There has, of course, been genuine progress: in technology, in communications, in medical care and in the protection of people’s rights through the law. Nevertheless, terror and oppression, death and disease, greed and self-serving still govern the lives of millions. In the light of all this, belief in human progress looks facile and deluding.

Christian hope is grounded in the character of God. Often, in the Psalms, the writer sys to God: ‘My hope is in you’. It is a hope rooted in the love and faithfulness of God. Hope is not wishful thinking but a firm assurance that God can be relied upon. It does not remove the need for ‘waiting upon the Lord’ but there is underlying confidence that God is a ‘strong rock’ and one whose promises can be trusted. The writer to the Hebrews describes the Christian hope as ‘an anchor for the soul, firm and secure’. Even when experiencing exile, persecution, doubt or darkness, the Biblical writers trust in God’s ‘unfailing love’ and know that he will be true to his covenant promises. That is the basis of their hope.

Hope is not always spontaneous or easy. There is work to be done. As well as trusting God, we have to develop qualities of steadfastness in our own character. Paul says: ‘We know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character and hope.’ (Romans 5:3-4)

Hope is coupled with faith and love as one of the three most enduring gifts of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 13:13).

Friendship

Friendship is an undisputed value in our society, with children often spending more time with their friends than with family. It is a key concept in the Christian framework, with Jesus being criticised for being ‘the friend of sinners’ and eating with those whom society rejected.

Sharing a meal with someone is an explicit sign of friendship and the word ‘companion’ literally means ‘one with whom you share bread.’

Jesus tells stories of the heavenly banquet to which all are invited. The barriers between people are broken down in a loving community around God and Jesus had stern words to say to those who refused to recognise that all are included in this community of friendship.

The Bible has many sayings about friendship. ‘A friend loves at all times.’ (Proverbs 17:17)

Friends are not afraid to tell each other the truth and a friends loving criticism is worth more than the empty compliments of someone who does not really care for you.

‘Wounds from a friend can be trusted, but an enemy multiplies kisses.’ (Proverbs 27:6)

The writer of Ecclesiastes puts it very simply: ‘if one falls down, a friend can lift him up.’ (Ecclesiastes 4:10)

The Friendship of David and Jonathan is very strongly emphasised in the Bible, Abraham is described as the friend of God (James 2:23) and Jesus explicitly calls his disciples not servants but friends (John 15: 14-15).

Trust, feeling comfortable in each other’s company, being able to share joys and sorrows are all features of friendship and these are things of immense value. True friendship enables each person to grow and ensures that the unique individuality of each person is recognised. All this echoes the value placed by God on the preciousness of each person.

Hymns like ‘What a friend we have in Jesus’ point to a relationship that is at the heart of Christian belief. Knowing that God is our friend is to recover something of the acceptance and close companionship that people of all ages need and crave.

Thankfulness

Thankfulness has always been at the centre of the life and worship of God’s people. Under the Law of Moses, there were not only sacrifices for forgiveness, there were ‘thanks offerings’ as well.

‘Songs of thankfulness and praise…’ are at the heart of Christian worship. Thankfulness is directed towards God who gives and sustains life. Seeing the world as God’s creation underpins the way we approach everything in life, seeing it as a gift and not as a right. Thankfulness is important. Luke tells the story of the ten lepers who were healed and is

probably challenging his readers to examine themselves when he tells of the amazement of Jesus that only one, a Samaritan, came back to thank him. (Luke 17:11-19)

Jesus gave thanks to God (Matthew 11.25) and although the word ‘thankfulness’ is not common in the Gospels, recognition of his dependence on the Father infuses the whole life of Jesus. Thankfulness is a wholehearted response. It stems from a consciousness of God’s gifts and blessings. It is a joyfulness that erupts into praise. Paul frequently encourages us to ‘be thankful’ (Colossians 3:15), to ‘give thanks in all circumstances’ (1 Thessalonians 5:18) and says that our lives should ‘overflow with thankfulness’ (Colossians 2:7).

For Christians the greatest of all acts of worship is simply called ‘thanksgiving’ – eucharistia in Greek – thanksgiving for the death and resurrection of God’s Son and the way of forgiveness that is opened up.

Wisdom

There is a type of literature in the Bible that is sometimes called ‘Wisdom Literature’ and an important idea in these writings is that ‘the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom’. Wisdom is insight into the way life works: a proper understanding of the consequences of our thoughts, words and actions and an awareness of the true value of things. It is rooted in proper reverence for God who is the source of all life and all values.

Although related to education and knowledge, wisdom differs from cleverness. Wisdom may be best described as discernment gained through life experience and distilled into guiding principles. Sometimes, the word is used in the Bible to refer to the practical and technical skills possessed by an experienced craftsperson or administrator. In the book of Proverbs, Wisdom is sometimes personified and, at one point, is spoken of as she who worked alongside God as a master craftsperson when God created the world.

The opposite of wisdom is foolishness, which is a wrong understanding of life. Jesus tells the parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21). Although this parable may seem to be mainly about greed and obsession with money, at a deeper level it is about putting our trust or faith in the wrong things. It’s about missing the point; it’s about being a fool. The fool does not realize that his soul is ‘on loan’ from God, who can require it back whenever he likes. The fool thinks that the aim of life is to ‘be happy’ and he thinks that you can gain happiness by doing what you want and be gaining more and more possessions. The wise person recognizes their own limitations, trusts in God and understands that there is more to life than may be seen on the surface.

The Bible often points out that God’s wisdom is the reversal of ‘the wisdom of the Christ’s sacrificial life and his teaching about love and humility may appear foolish by the world’s standards but, in reality, it expresses the Wisdom of God. 1 Kings 3:9 (Solomon’s request for wisdom rather than power or wealth). So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong – 1 Kings 4:29 God gave Solomon wisdom and very great insight, and a breadth of understanding as measureless as the sand on the seashore.

Compassion

‘Compassion’ and ‘sympathy’ have much in common and both are stronger in meaning than simply ‘feeling sorry for’ someone. The words have their roots in the idea of ‘suffering’ with someone, putting yourself in

someone else’s shoes and experiencing what they experience. This leads to a desire to act, to do something. It is not patronizing. It is not about ‘doing good’ from a position of strength or ‘remembering those less fortunate than ourselves’. Compassion requires an act of imagination and humility to share in the lives of others. Notice the qualities that

Paul links together. He says ‘clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.’ (Colossians 3:12)

Jesus showed compassion towards the ‘harassed and helpless’ crowds (Matthew 9.36) and his works of healing were always prompted by compassion for people’s suffering. He wept at the death of Lazarus and was moved to act.

The father in the parable of the Prodigal Son is not just forgiving. He is described as being filled with compassion. ‘But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.’ (Luke 15:20) The father seems to understand everything that his son is feeling and

responds by giving him everything he needs: a whole-hearted welcome, acceptance and love.

Christians have always had to wrestle with the problem of how a loving God could allow there to be evil and suffering in the world. There is no simple answer to this but we make the first step towards understanding when we grasp the idea that God the Father is not passively observing the suffering of the world from the outside. God fully identified with human suffering in the life and death of Jesus and continues to work to

transform the sufferings of the world through the work of the Holy Spirit.

Trust

Trust is the very essence of faith; trust in the God who is trustworthy.

‘Trust in the Lord’ is a central theme in the Psalms. Time and time again, God is acknowledged as the source of all true security and strength. This is contrasted with trust in chariots, horses, weapons, wealth or princes (Psalm 20:7; 118:8-9). We can easily think of the modern day equivalents. Trust placed in the wrong things is close to idolatry. Trust is essential to human life and lies at the heart of all relationships. Trust entails

vulnerability, putting yourself in others’ hands. We have to trust experts – pilots, dentists, surgeons. Yet, within our society, there often seems to be mutual distrust between people and those responsible for governing them.

Marriage is founded on trust and is a God-given framework in which human trust can be developed. The wording of the Christian marriage vows sends out a strong message in a society where the breakdown of trust is widespread.

Trust is central to civilised society, to living together in harmony, so it is to be valued and honoured. With wisdom and discernment, we can relearn to trust. We can begin to rebuild trust in our mistrustful society by being reliable ourselves, by not letting people down. Similarly, when we work with others, if we are willing to let go of control ourselves and trust in the abilities and integrity of others, everyone can be enriched. Jesus, after all, entrusted his ongoing work to his disciples and ultimately to us.

Honesty

There are very few references to honesty in the Bible. We nevertheless feel that this is an important value to teach because it is one of the key building blocks of strong community life.

Service

Words relating to ‘servant’ and ‘service’ are central in Christian theology. Some of the most important prophecies in Isaiah speak of the coming of the ‘Servant of the Lord’ and his role as a ‘suffering servant.’ That is why Jesus said that he ‘came not to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.’ (Mark 10:45)

Jesus washed the feet of his disciples at the Last Supper. This turned upside down the normal relationship between master and disciple, leader and follower. In many ways, this astonishing action symbolizes the essence of the Incarnation: God stooping to share the human condition. Jesus is very clear about the meaning of his action: ‘Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another’s feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done.’ (John 13:14-15)

The parable of the Good Samaritan shows we should serve those in need whoever they are. Such service is not offered to gain some advantage for ourselves. ‘Going the extra mile’ involves sacrifice, putting ourselves out for someone else’s benefit.

Serving God means serving others. It also means that we cannot serve other masters as well – such as money. However, the Christian message is equally clear that service is not all about restrictions. It is precisely in a life of service that we become most truly free.

Humility

Humility has a central place in Christ’s teaching. It is contrasted with pride, where people ascribe to themselves the honour and glory which is God’s alone. Ultimately, pride seeks to compete with God, whereas humility acknowledges that God is God and that we should live in trusting dependence upon God.

The story of the Fall and the Tower of Babel are both about the potential of humanity to overreach itself, to want to be like God. Thousands of years of human history demonstrate the persistence and pernicious effects of this tendency.

Jesus taught his followers that if they wished to enter the Kingdom of Heaven they must be like children. This is no sentimental picture of children, who are quite capable of arrogance and the desire to see the whole world revolve round them. Jesus is challenging people to become like those who have no legal or social standing, to become like servants. Throughout his teaching, Jesus uses a series of images and examples to encourage his disciples to ‘take the lower place’, or ‘to wash each other’s feet.’ The words ‘humility’ and ‘humanity’ are directly linked, both being derived from ‘humus’ – the earth. God made us from the earth and in being humble we ‘earth’ our view of ourselves in reality. When compared to God we are nothing but that nothing is infinitely valuable to God who shared human nature.

The Christian doctrine of the Incarnation – the Son of God taking human flesh – is presented by Paul as the supreme act of humility in which Christ ‘emptied himself’ and took the form of a slave (Philippians 2:5-11).

The Christian message insists that it is through identifying with Christ’s humble service and sacrifice that we rediscover that other truth about ourselves – that we are sons and daughters of God and made in God’s image.

The Bible makes it clear that God is on the side of the humble and against the proud. As Mary sings in the Magnificat: He has brought down rulers from their thrones but has lifted up the humble (Luke 1:52).

In the parable of the Pharisee and the tax-collector, Jesus criticises those who are ‘confident in their own righteousness’ (Luke 18:9-14). He contrasts the self-congratulatory prayer of the one with the penitent humility of the other and concludes with the words: ‘Everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.

Reverence/

Respect

(See also grid on British Values).

Christians believe that all people are made in God’s image and as such deserve respect.

This is a key value in our school because it guides behaviour and influences our daily interactions with each other. Respect is embodied in our Golden Rules; respect for other people’s views and beliefs is also important within the school and a key way in which we build tolerance and respect for other faiths and religions.

Respect for fundamental British values such as democracy, individual and collective liberties within the law, are also fully embraced.

As Moses approached the presence of God in the burning bush, God said to him: ‘Do not come any closer. Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy ground.’ This scene captures something of the essence of ‘reverence.’

Reverence is the proper human response to what is holy and sacred. It is related to awe and respect. It is this profound respect that is expressed in the Biblical phrase ‘the fear of the Lord’. This is not fear in the sense of terror or abject grovelling but a reverent acknowledgment of God’s greatness and our complete dependence.

Such reverence is the proper response to the mystery of life and death, or to the created world in which we live. This profound respect for God is the spring from which true worship flows. Although only God is truly worthy of reverence and worship, the Bible also contains the related concept of ‘honouring’. We are asked to honour one another and one of the ten commandments instructs us to honour our father and mother.

Exodus 3:5-6

Justice

When thinking about ‘justice’, some people think first about giving wrongdoers the punishment they deserve. ‘Justice’ evokes ideas of ‘just deserts’, ’the punishment fitting the crime’, ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth’.

However, that would be a one-sided picture of justice. Justice also means giving all people – particularly the poor and oppressed – what it is right and fair for them to have: life, health, freedom and dignity. It is about acting out of a concern for what is right and seeing right prevail. It is about social justice, especially for those who suffer most and are least able to protect themselves.

In Exodus, the people are instructed to deal with everyone fairly and never to show partiality to one group above another (Exodus 23:2-6).

The Bible emphasises that ‘The righteous care about justice for the poor’ (Proverbs 29:7).  Isaiah says: ‘Seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow’ (Isaiah 1:17). Justice is the ‘plumb line’ by which society is measured (Isaiah 29:17).

According to Amos, its presence in society should be constant and abundant: ‘Let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream!’ (Amos 5:24). Throughout the Bible, it is emphasised that justice is immensely important to God. It is fundamental to God’s character. ‘For the LORD is righteous, he loves justice; upright men will see his face.’ (Psalm 11:7)

Justice is not about a culture which encourages everyone to insist on their own rights at the expense of others. It is about a community that knows that everyone’s well-being is bound up with that of everyone else.

A commitment to justice leads to fierce opposition to injustice in whatever form it may be found. Justice is a pre-requisite of peace: without justice there can be no peace.

Many of these values can be seen as shared human values which all people of goodwill would want to foster and develop. These values are also viewed by us as Christian values and the Christian faith underpins our approach to them. At times, we may refer to these values through some of the Christian teaching below.

See also: www.christianvalues4schools.org.uk