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An open letter to May graduates

An open letter to May graduates

(Photo: Unsplash/Cole Keister)

Dear May 2019 Graduates:

You are stepping into a world undergoing a “Globequake.” Mighty tectonic shifts spiritually, philosophically, politically, and culturally are shaking the West and tremoring throughout the nations.

This means you are also entering a world where much opportunity awaits. Changing times always call for the best in us.

In the midst of the fragmentation, be a person who unites and heals.

In the midst of the upheaval, be a person of peace.

In the midst of confusion, be a man or woman of truth.

In the midst of a world that knows love only as eros, be an individual who walks in agape—the unconditional love modelled by the Lord Jesus Christ.

In a world dissipating its energies and destroying itself, be an edifier.

Here are seven actions that will help you manifest the qualities described above:

1. Repair, restore, and build upon the true foundations.

The world you enter as a graduate is pounding away at the foundations based on Psalm 33: “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord.” Psalm 11:3 asks, “If the foundations are destroyed what can the righteous do?” The “righteous” are not religious pretenders or stern authoritarians, but people seeking to walk in a transcendent quality of life. They also maintain their personal foundations.

2. Always keep the Kingdom of God first in your focus.

Seek first God’s Kingdom and His righteousness, said Jesus. (Matthew 6:33) Romans 14:17 reveals that the Kingdom is characterized by “righteousness” (both “goodness” and “justice”), peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. As a young man I worked in the White House, helping shape and apply public policy. I came away from Washington with an enduring and intensifying conviction that there can be no better vision for society than the Kingdom of God as described in Romans 14:17.

3. Dare to be counter-cultural.

To embrace and live by the principles of Christ’s Kingdom will put you in opposition to popular culture. The Chaldeans, the keepers of political correctness in ancient Babylon, tried to lure Daniel into the lifestyle of the king. But Daniel made up his mind that he would not “defile himself” at the king’s table. (Daniel 1:8) Determine now that you will not be defiled by the spirit of the age. Take Romans 12:1-2 seriously. Give your whole being to God, and don’t be conformed by the age in which you live, but renew your mind in and through the mind of Christ.

4. Beware of a bifurcated worldview.

This perspective believes God is “up there” somewhere, but Heaven has little to do with earth. Instead, understand that your calling and work in the existential world is Kingdom-of-Heaven-work. See the whole of yourself and your giftings as ministering the Kingdom wherever your work takes you, in alignment with God’s purpose for your life in the world.

5. Bring the best of the past into the present for the sake of the future.

“If we open a quarrel between past and present, we shall find that we have lost the future,” said Winston Churchill. Right now there is a vicious “quarrel” going on in American culture between the “past” and the “present.” The historic vision for America at her best is being displaced by our worst historical moments becoming the only ones we see. Many are conflating the part—our national failures—with the whole. Statues are coming down, murals are being wiped out, and great people of the past are being written off. If we reject them wholly because of what they did at their worst we will lose the valuable principles essential for the future, displayed in their best. After Joshua led the Hebrews across the Jordan he ordered the leaders to build a monument at the crossing-point. When children asked the meaning of the stones, parents could tell them about how God led them through the wilderness. Reach into the past, someday tell your children about the wrongs, but share with them how God blessed America in past times, and how she blessed the world.

6. Maintain a childlike attitude without being childish.

“Who is greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven?” Jesus’ followers asked Him. “Whoever... humbles himself as a child, he is the greatest in the Kingdom of Heaven,” Jesus replied. A hubristic age that takes pride in its supposed sophistication may reject childlikeness, but falls into childishness. A mark of our age is the constant pouting, squealing, entitlement mentality, and squabbling of adults behaving childishly. But childlike behavior that Jesus refers to is living with the sense of wonder, faith, and awe. It knows when to ask, but doesn’t get so bogged down in “How?” that it loses the capacity to say, “Wow!” The world you are entering will do all possible to make you a cynic. Don’t let it steal your childlike amazement at God and His creation.

7. Don’t take your eyes off your Guide.

In seventy-seven years I have learned that growing old can be like going up a mountain, into ever-increasing light instead of a descent into a dark ravine. Proverbs 3:5-6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and do not lean on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight.” Follow that principle, and the higher you get on that mountain of age, the better you can see where you’ve been—the wrong turns, the potholes, the mistakes. But if you follow the Lord as your Guide you see that He used it all to get you to the place He wants you... and that’s where you really want to be.

Graduation is a major step on that life-course. May you look back some day from high up the mountain of maturity, and rejoice over the journey.

It accelerates now.

In Christ’s Bond,

Wallace Henley

Wallace Henley is senior associate pastor at Houston's Second Baptist Church, and Chair of Belhaven University's Master of Ministry Leadership degree. He is a former White House and Congressional aide, and co-author of "God and Churchill", with Winston Churchill's great-grandson, Jonathan Sandys.

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