As I sat in the packed, overheated gym, I was once again amazed. I have been to many graduations to be sure, but each one brings with it unique emotions. Excitement is not what I was experiencing, nor was I overly bored. It wasn’t the many people who were gathered in one place for one event. What gets to me is that there are so many kids graduating that do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ. As they file past me, I pray that God would make Himself known in each of their lives. It sounds nice to tell the graduates that they should be courageous and should make a difference in the world. I just find that they overdo it when much of the talk is centered on themselves and how inherently awesome they are. Of course, they are awesome people. I agree that there is so much potential represented in the graduating class.
But, the truth of the matter is that without Jesus Christ that difference will be limited. Think about it. If you want to make a difference in the world, what do you need to do? You need to stand out from the herded mass. You need to do something that completely contrasts the normal way people live. Jesus Christ did this and He calls us to the same. In that regard, your impact will only be as great as the One you are serving. So, my message to those graduating, or those who have graduated a long time ago is to follow Jesus! I know that sounds simple, but take a look at just a few examples of this.
Love your enemies – Jesus didn’t just tell us to love our enemies, He did it. This is so radical in our world because no one in their right mind would ever want to love someone who doesn’t love them back. But, I guarantee that if you do this, you will make a huge splash in the world.
Give to those who can’t give back – Jesus didn’t die for us because we could pay for it. He died for us because we couldn’t pay for our sin without Him. Imagine if we gave to people just because we wanted to and didn’t expect anything in return. It would change so much about our world.
Look for those in need and help them – Jesus was notorious for finding those who were hurt, broken or deep in sin and reaching them. We don’t need to go far to find these people. Some of them are right next door, or, in some cases, in the same home. We would make a huge difference if we just paid attention to the people around us. That means slowing down and opening our eyes.
Love people without condition – Jesus modeled this well for us also. He didn’t wait for us to love Him as a condition for His love. He loved us because that is who He is. Yet, some people still don’t accept that.
Stand for something — I know that it is easy to just follow the crowd, but what if the crowd is going to a place that is dangerous. It is the old thing that parents tell their kids, “if your friend jumped off a cliff would you?” The sad truth is that many people will and often do get themselves into situations they would never be in without the influence of their peers. Jesus was pressured to change, give up and was even tempted by the devil to surrender to him. But, Jesus stood for something and didn’t let the pressure get to Him.
Don’t be petty — While many Christian people fight about silly things, there are people dying without Jesus. Jesus didn’t waste His time with the peripheral things like what someone was talking about or who was dating who. His concern was for the mission He was sent to complete, “to seek and save that which was lost.”
Remember that each person is important — I have remembered a quote I heard years ago, even though I can’t remember who said it. It said, “remember that there is no one you will meet today who Jesus did not die for.” This has been something that I have had to remind myself of often.
This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. – 1 John 4:10
I have no idea what any person that I encounter will become. I know that I fervently pray for the youth group and for my own children that they will choose to follow Jesus Christ no matter what. In a world that is rapidly changing, this gets to be more of a challenge every year. But, every person who follows Jesus will make an impact making the effort worth it all.
What would you add to this list? I am sure there are more things we can add. Who knows, I might do a follow-up piece to this at some point.