Should a Christian School Refuse to let a Pregnant Student Take Part in Graduation? Maybe?
Maddi Runkles is graduating from high school this year. In fact, at the time of this posting she has already graduated. Unlike her classmates, Maddi did not participate in the commencement ceremony at her private Christian school. The school, where her father was previously the president of the board of directors, decided not to allow Maddi to walk and participate in the school’s graduation ceremony.
The reason Maddi has been prevented from taking part in the school’s graduation ceremony is because she is pregnant. The school has a covenant that prohibits students from being sexually active before marriage. The school said that since Maddi broke the covenant, she is not eligible to walk in the ceremony.
Abortion advocates have blasted the school for this decision, saying the school pretends to be pro-life, but then punishes one of their own that chooses not to abort. The school is being accused of hypocrisy.
Pro-life advocates have also opposed the school’s decision saying that when a young teenager chooses life that she should not be punished for her decision.
Unfortunately, both sides have missed the point of the school’s decision and made this story far bigger than it should have been.
First I want to say that I am thankful for Maddi’s decision to keep her baby. I would hope that in a Christian home this would be the case but we all know that it has not always turned out this way. The fact that this young lady will graduate high school and soon after give birth to her first child is a credit to her faith. I rejoice that the tiny life inside her will not be subjected to torture and death.
But the real issue here is not the fact that Maddi chose life.
The fact that Maddi chose life should be expected of a professing Christian. Regardless of the circumstances, any professing Christian should be expected to support life over the murder of the unborn. That this story is gaining popularity because Maddi chose life should be disconcerting to Christians.
The real issue here is that Heritage Academy has a student covenant that prohibits sexual activity. Maddi clearly broke that covenant. The covenant sets expectations and, I assume, consequences for any student that does not adhere to the covenant. Since Maddi broke the covenant the school followed through on the consequences associated with breaking the covenant.
A recent article explains:
“Runkles maintained a 4.0 grade point average and served as president of the student council at Heritage Academy. And like most Christian school students, she signed a pledge to avoid premarital sex, drugs and alcohol. Then January came, and she discovered she was pregnant out of wedlock.”
To be clear, I have not seen the Heritage Academy covenant. But, as the graduate of a Christian school it is easy to believe that the covenant lays out rules, guidelines, and consequences for students that break the covenant. Could it be that Heritage Academy is showing grace in allowing Maddi to finish her classes? Could it be that Heritage Academy had the option to expel Maddi but chose not to do so?
Those questions need answers. Unfortunately it does not seem that anyone is asking those questions. It seems everyone wants to focus on Maddi’s choice not to abort her child and assume the school is punishing her for that decision. That does not seem “fair and balanced” as it leaves out some crucial information. But let’s talk about Christians and consequences.
Christians love to focus on grace. We are all about forgiveness, and rightfully so. As people that have been forgiven of our sins we should be quick to forgive. Does this mean that our actions never have consequences? Or, that consequences should be annulled because of grace? I don’t think so.
In 1 Corinthians 5 Paul is addressing sexual immorality in the church. Concerning the man guilty of the sin Paul says that he should be removed from the church until he repents. Paul writes:
“It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Ought you not rather to mourn? Let him who has done this be removed from among you.”
Now, let’s be clear on a couple of things in this instance. First, this man apparently is not repentant. Paul urges the church to remove him in order for him to be pushed towards repentance. As long as the church allows the man to attend without any consequence he will continue in his sin unrepentant. But, by removing the man, his sin will be brought into the light and he will be urged towards repentance. Maddi has confessed her sin to her entire school and repented.
And second, Paul is writing to a church and not a school.
With these thoughts in mind I think we can see some instruction for us today. First, sin has consequences. I don’t believe the consequence of Maddi’s sin is her unborn child. I would never think to call an unborn child a punishment, or a consequence. Children are a blessing from the Lord 9Psa. 127:3). The consequences for Maddi’s sin in breaking the school covenant is that she is not allowed to participate in the graduation ceremony.
Second, Christians need to recognize that grace does not remove consequences. Morethan others Christians need to understand that our sin affects others and brings consequences. The church/pastor that preaches that grace covers sin and removes its consequences is preaching a false doctrine. Not only does our sin have consequences with God but there is also consequences with the world in which we live.
Last, God has ordained authorities over us for our good. Christians should be willing to submit to the authorities over them when they sin when those authorities act justly. In this case it appears that the school did in fact show some grace in allowing Maddi to graduate. While I, personally, would not be in favor of barring her from taking part in the graduation ceremony, it’s not up to me. Anyone that is under the school covenant should show humility by adhering to the rules and consequences of that covenant. God has commanded us to obey the authorities in our life, for our good, and we should be humble enough to do so.
I sincerely hope the school and people around will support her. I hope they celebrate the life inside of her and are there to help along the way. I would certainly seek to do so if I was in Maddi’s circle. I believe this is the proper, the biblical thing to do. But, this does not mean that there should be no consequences for Maddi’s actions. Maybe not allowing her to take part in the graduation ceremony is a harsh punishment. Maybe not. Maybe the school could show some grace. Maybe they have.