“If you could live in any fictional land – Narnia, The Shire, etc. – where would you want to live?” A good friend asked me this question on my first night as a student at Grove City College. Though I’m sure he intended it only as a fun way to break the ice, it’s a question that has, over the years, actually made me think deeply about my desires and expectations for the place I choose to live my life.
A concern we often hear from students is that they’re afraid going to a Christian college won’t prepare them for interacting with the “rest of the world”. They’re afraid they won’t be able to relate to people who don’t share the same values and convictions or they won’t know how to deal with hard conversations about faith. “Practice makes perfect,” right? At least, that’s what we’ve been told all our lives…
We certainly won’t feel comfortable and confident interacting with people whose worldviews differ from ours unless we put ourselves in the paths of such people. But, college can be much more than preparation for the “real world.”
For many people college is one of the most concentrated times of growth – a time that defines and solidifies the answers to some of life’s foundational questions – Who am I? Why am I here? What should I do with my time here?
Answer this question – do you think you are influenced by the people you spend time with? The answer is YES. Without a doubt, yes. Your thoughts and actions are a response to the things you experience around you. Even if you pride yourself in being a solid Christian when all of your friends at school look down on your faith, if you primarily spend time with non-believers, you will inevitably be engaged in conversations that take your thoughts far from whatever is “true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable, excellent or praiseworthy.”
So during this season where your worldview will be tested and defined, who do you want to influence you?
There will (most likely) be no other time in your life when you can choose to live among people who are walking the same narrow path – who thirst and hunger for deeper relationship with Jesus, and their hunger will undoubtedly rub off on you and vice versa. Scripture says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Christian community is, in part, what we were made for – to share our understandings and experiences of God with one another so that we grow exponentially more in love with Him and more secure in His love for us. In this kind of community you can come to firm conclusions about who you are, why you’re here, and what you should do with your time here. Knowing your purpose will give you confidence in your interactions with people who disagree with you.
More importantly, it will give you compassion for them. I would even argue that there is no better place than among Christian friends to cultivate a love for the lost. As we grow together in knowledge and love of our Savior, our hearts become more desperate for those who don’t share in our joy.
Why do you think Jesus lived a perfect life? Do you think it was so people would see him and be inspired to be good? If that was his aim, He missed the mark. Because, Scripture tells us He was rejected, scorned, even hated. No, my friend. He lived a perfect life and endured rejection, scorn and hatred, because He loves you, every part of you. And, He chose to be the perfect sacrifice to atone for your sin and to give you all the riches of life spent eternally with the One who made you. Jesus’ life doesn’t teach us how to be “better people.” It teaches us how to love.
There is only one response to the unrelenting, radical, undeserved love of Jesus – to love what He loves. And, he loves the lost, sick, and sinful. So, as you study the life of Christ and grow deeper in relationship with Him, your love for the lost will grow as well.
Please don’t misunderstand me – you can have a deep relationship with Jesus anywhere and in any circumstance. Christian college is not the answer. But, it’s also not just a bubble. It’s not a kumbaya atmosphere where we live unconcerned with the rest of the world. It’s a place where we cultivate Christ-inspired love for others – love that is not pushy or demanding, love that genuinely cares for the other, love that says, “You’re worth the pain I might face in loving you”– and this is the kind of love that can change hearts.
If my friend asked me again what kind of idealistic land I’d like to live in, this is what I’d say: I would like to live someplace that allows me to be in close community with my heavenly brothers and sisters, where I am daily reminded of the fullness of life I have in Christ and where I am equipped to help in the good work He invites me to join in – loving the lost.