Yesterday was my first real trip since early August outside Washington County in a vehicle other than a school bus full of teenagers. Diana and I took Caleb for a visit to Salisbury University to see the college and meet the coach there. And on the way home, we stopped at the University of Maryland in College Park where Jesse is a current student.
We often think of the secular university campus as a bastion of leftist ideology – replete with an anti-Christian hedonism that mocks Christ and the Cross. Indeed, the stuff of this material world is on full display, as is the celebration of the multi-cultural gumbo of all ideas and values being equal ideas and values.
But even without searching it out, the students who are the children of the Kingdom of Light may be found taking their stand for truth and righteousness – competing well in the modern agora of ideas. And in this, I marvel at how they shine like lights in the darkness.
At Salisbury, the coach had his Bible on his office desk – as he did when I first met him 13 years ago when Nathan visited. On the campus tour (as on every campus tour at the dozens of schools I’ve endured such over the past 13 years), they took us into the “average college dorm room.” There a young African-American man talked about dorm life; and as he did, I looked over his shoulder on the shelf behind him where he had several Young Life pamphlets, and a Bible on the top level (he told me he is serving as a YL leader at a local high school). University students often write announcements and messages in chalk on sidewalks – and as we entered a particular building, written on the pavement was this: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus,” 1 Timothy 2:15. The campus ministry group was meeting in that building on this evening – with signs advertising the gathering.
At the University of Maryland, we stopped to not just see Jesse, but to pick up his audio equipment from an evening show where his academic fraternity was hosting a benefit program for a student with cancer. Jesse was supplying and running the sound technology for the event. It was a variety talent show, and it was a bit … well … “raw” at times. The dances were creative but a bit suggestive at certain junctures, the comedy routines a bit rough with the language, etc. But one girl sang a song a cappella – introducing it as a part of her celebration, not of “the holidays,” but of Christmas and the coming of Jesus. The song was a ballad as sung from the lips of Mary – pondering the holiness within her by carrying and bearing the divine son. Her song indeed stuck out like a bright light in a dark sky.
The Scriptures are full of passages where we are admonished to live in this way. The Beatitudes encourage us to let our light shine before men … and in Ephesians 5:8 Paul says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light.” And in this Christmas season we celebrate the coming of Christ who is oft spoken of as the light that has penetrated the darkness.
So I have not feared sending my boys into these places – yes, locations abounding with the fruitless deeds of darkness, yet places as well where a strong faith can be forged upon the anvil of friends and associates who together recognize their common faith and the obligation to live – even on the secular campus – as citizens of an Eternal Kingdom. I have become of the opinion that there is far more to fear from certain “Christian institutions” who boast a genuine religious past that is but marginally clung to today, and whose fruit I’ve too often seen as infusing skepticism toward the eventual end of the loss of faith by too many of our youth who have attended such vacuous white-washed sepulchers filled with dead men’s bones.