ENGAGING THE UNIVERSITY AS A CHRISTIAN
by MIRIAM JACOB
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Being a Christian in the universities of today’s world is a challenging task. Universities change fast, often beyond recognition. All the dramatic changes affecting students cause drastic changes in lifestyles and values. Relativism, apathy, hedonism and narcissism are some of the issues confronting students in universities today. Relativism states that different things are right for different people. People can live by different truths and standards. There is no absolute truth, only what people want to believe. People can have different views about everything. All truth, criteria and standards of judgement depend upon the people and situations involved. All points of view are equally valid. Relativism is wide-spread. Nobody challenges anyone else’s beliefs. Relativism is a contradiction of beliefs, disguised as a positive virtue and portrayed as a tolerant position to hold in today’s relativistic society. How can truth be valued professionally and yet despised personally?
Apathy, a general indifference and disinterest in important matters, is deep-rooted in student life in universities. When materialism is the main aim and goal, it is difficult to consider issues of life and faith. This is certainly not on the agenda. Live life on its own terms. Hedonism is the inordinate pursuit of pleasure for its own sake. Narcissism is defined as the excessive love of self, a peculiar fascination with oneself and innate vanity. Both issues cover up the real questions at the heart of the matter. The significant fact is that nobody wants to change the world. Everybody wants short-term satisfaction, not long-term security in the passionate zest for life. Students get into wayward lifestyles for self-expression and personal enjoyment, putting everything on hold for the time being, refusing to face the real issues at stake. People leave everything to chance with nothing concrete to build on, believing that better things will come along eventually, sometime, somewhere. The crux of the matter is that life itself is a fleeting dream, with nothing of substance to hold it in place.
How do we engage the university to reach the professionals and students in a ﬁercely antagonistic culture and a totally disinterested society? The world hates Christians because it hated Jesus first (John 15:18). Jesus told us exactly what to expect when He gave us the Great Commission. Disciples will be made to the ends of the earth. Christ will do it through us. We are His chosen instruments. It is God who convicts the hearts of people. It is His work, not ours. Consider how important personal relationships and honest values are in a totally relativistic world, where the human self reigns supreme, and the only important relationships are those to gratify the self. Christian students enjoy the best of relationships as they are spiritually related in the Lord Jesus Christ. They portray the love of Christ as the only true answer to life’s perplexing questions. Jesus gives us the true meaning of life, in all its fullness. God reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, who died to save us from our sins. Our relationships with each other portray and reveal His loving relationship with us. “We love because He first loved us – (1 John 4:19).
The question of values is an incredibly complex one in today’s world. In this materialistic world, there is nothing worthy of value, nothing worth living for. Relativism, with its equal value concept, deprives everything of their true and actual value. In the face of relativism, the gospel offers real hope of knowing the truth which will set us free. A God who reveals the truth and who will judge on the Last Day. Christians cherish the gospel for its permanent nature in a transient and transitory world. It deals with sin and not cover-ups for sin, new life and life after death. Jesus died to reconcile us to God. The gospel truly satisﬁes because its only purpose is to glorify God. The sad irony of life is that the world, once created to glorify God, is now glorifying man who perishes like the ﬂowers of the ﬁeld.
How can Christian students present the gospel in universities in a relevant way? This is the true essence of Christianity, to analyze what the Christian faith is all about and its relevance to humanity. Personal evangelism is always the best and most fruitful way to tell others about Christ. As we interact with others face-to-face, people will see the true work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those who love Christ. The lives of students are transformed through discipleship-cum-fellowship programmes like one-to-one and two-by-two. The real focus on evangelism is appealing to the person seeking the truth and searching for answers. It is difficult for young Christians to overcome peer pressure, to stand out different from the rest, to take the giant leap of faith or to shun the degrading standards of the world. However, to those who take up the cross for Christ, with eternity’s values in view, it is of immeasurable worth and inestimable value.
Let us pray for Christian students to speak out for Jesus and to witness about the saving power of Christ as they face enormous pressures to conform to the standards and values set by the world. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness does not understand it – (John 1:5). The Holy Spirit illuminates our hearts with God’s light and opens our eyes to see His truth. Evangelism is God's own work. The venerable university can be a veritable battlefield for those vulnerable to temptation. Nobody openly challenges your ideas and beliefs, but in the face of staggering popularity and popular public opinion, new students hesitate to admit their Christianity for fear of rejection, opting instead to keep their faith under cover. This is a most perilous path to be avoided at all costs. It is better to admit one’s faith and be counted than to hide our faith from the world.
Christ is the Light of the World who illuminates the darkness of sin with His bright truth. To enter the kingdom of heaven, a person must be “born again” (John 3:3). This is an act of the heart, a conscious decision to serve Christ. The gospel saves us from sin and restores us to our rightful inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade’ (1 Peter 1:4). There is a cost to be paid and a reward to be reaped. Christian witness brings opposition to believers at all stages of life but gives us the crown of life at the end. Christian students face perplexing crossroads at university, unable to obey two masters, one in the world and One in the Church. “No one can serve two masters” - (Matthew 6:24). Pray for a better understanding and a clearer vision of the issues confronting Christian students in universities, to enable us to pray for student ministries in our state, across the country and abroad.
© Miriam Jacob
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