In Matthew 15 the Pharisees accuse the disciples of breaking the “tradition of the elders.” This was a big deal in the culture at that time, and the disciples probably felt a considerable amount of pressure to fit in with the cultural norms. It would have been easy for our Lord to agree with the Pharisees and go along with how difficult and unruly the disciples were, but he wouldn’t.
Instead he opposed the Pharisees and was relentlessly loyal to his disciples. They weren’t perfect, there’s no question about that, but Jesus stood against their attack and protected them. They were his sheep, and he loved them in spite of their flaws. He was zealous to guard them from their accusations, which could have very easily discouraged and confused them. Jesus could have pointed out how the disciples were hard-hearted (which they often were), or impetuous (they were), or self-centered (they very much were) or thick-skulled (which, again, they were), agreeing with the Pharisees and easing the tension. But he didn’t. He stuck to his less-than-perfect guys.
Be loyal to your students. They will be wrong– a lot. They will do foolish things. They will not progress exactly how you think they should. But they already have an accuser– his name is Satan– and you need to be their advocate, and consistently bring them to the Advocate. Show them loyalty, show them love, show them grace, show them gospel.
It’s been said so much it’s somewhat cliche, but there’s a reason people keep saying it: “They won’t care what you know until they know that you care.” Let them know you’re with them for the long haul, through thick and thin, rain or shine, ups and downs. Be relentlessly loyal.
There is a time and place for tough love. You will have to do that too. But by and large, Jesus’s commitment to his disciples was one of grace and patience and teaching– working with them through their sins and struggles and failures.
Be relentlessly loyal to our drifting, wandering, learning, struggling, young friends.