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We can be witnesses of our faith everywhere, even at school. But are we being witnesses of Jesus or living like hypocritical Pharisees?
Allow me to introduce myself – My name is Junelle and I’ll be a senior this year at the University of Washington’s School of Public Health. I choose to spell out that mouth full because I think it’s significant to say that this school and this major is full of people who’ve been hurt by the church and openly share their logical, but not always friendly, opinions about Christians in response.
“Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: ‘Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?’” – Matthew 22:34-36
I was a youth group kid, who brought friends to Young Life and read my Bible here and there. I fit the “goody-two-shoes” stereotype and everyone knew I helped out at church. That’s how I passed walking in my faith back home.
If you’ve read parts of the Bible before, you might understand me when I say I related a bit to the Pharisees. You see, a Pharisee was “an expert in the law.” Today, a Pharisee would be the “perfect” Christian – following all the rules and doing everything they were “supposed to do.” Things had to change, however, when I was off to the big university, new place, new people, new peers, no one knew what I did or what I believed anymore. No one was telling me I was doing a good job.
“Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’This is the first and greatest commandment.And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” – Matthew 22:37-39
Agapaō was the Greek word for love originally written in this Gospel. It was a verb used that means to welcome, to be fond of, to love dearly. So the most important rule I began to discover in college was this:
Agapaō the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Agapaō your neighbor as you agapaō yourself.
“He said to them: ‘It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.’” – Acts 1:7-8
You don’t have to defend your faith. You don’t have to defend God. You just need to be confident in and allow the Love of God that overwhelms your insides to manifest into how you share your life in the physical world.
I ask myself every morning: why on earth are you here? Is it to get 4.0’s? Is it to get the fancy degree? Is it to get the high paying job? Maybe it is, and Glory be to God. But if I’m so focused on these good things and don’t have the time to stop to talk to and stand up for people whose stories break my heart, do I Agapaō my neighbors? Am I being a witness to God’s Agapaō, or am I being a witness to all I can do and have accomplished?
The next question I ask is: how much do you trust God? He made you capable. He made you strong. He gave you strengths and He gave you weaknesses. No matter what year you are in school, or in life, I pray you keep on discovering who He made you to be. There are barriers, some that were made for you to endure, and others that were gracefully placed for you to take a detour. Wrestle. Find out.
As soon as I heard that God had a purpose and plan for me, I immediately started to search for a way to better align what I was doing in school to how I could serve God. I had been striving on a path that I had always dreamed of and was praying and pleading to God that He would bless my schooling. Then I realized that I was running towards a worldly goal, rather than running to Jesus. Our plans for school are never as perfect as they seem. God is a better planner than any of us will ever be and it’s up to us to stay faithful when we watch our plan fall to pieces.
Responsibility. When I hear this I think “Response-Ability.” I have abilities He gave me that have grown throughout these past three years of my undergraduate experience. I know what I’m good at and I know what I’m not good at. These will change as I walk further down the road, but with these abilities, I get to have a response. And I choose to respond knowing that God is bigger. God is bigger than the original plans I had imagined. Scripture says no eye has seen and no ears have heard, we are unable to imagine the plans God has prepared for us (1 Corinthians 2:9). He’s bigger than the failed attempts and expectations. He’s bigger than the disappointing GPA and so much bigger than the financial aid. When I am doubtful and fearful of the post-grad life, I look to Jesus who I accepted as the King of my life and the King of my every day.
Thank You for making me uniquely and wonderfully. Thank You for giving me specific abilities to respond to You and Your calling on my life. I thank You that Your love for me is Agapaō. I pray that You tune my heart to respond to others with Agapaō. That I become a witness, not a judge – a friend, not a lawyer. Help me be gracious in showing my flaws and helping others along in theirs. Open my eyes to see the plan that You have for me. Help guide me into the fullness of who You made me to be.
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