My heart is broken for the current generation of young people. This Sunday I get to speak at our community’s Baccalaureate service and will have an opportunity to share my heart with them.
Since my son is graduating this year – and because I work in a church that has youth – I have the opportunity to get to know some of this year’s class. I like them, and will miss them as they go off to pursue the next stage of life. I know that going off – gaining independence – is a good thing. I sure enjoyed gaining my independence when I left home and went off to college. Good though it is, I’ll miss them nonetheless.
My challenge to them will come from the story of the rich young ruler. Commonly the focus is on Jesus telling him to sell all he had and them to follow Jesus. I’m going to approach it a little differently. This was a fellow who had so much going for him. Not satisfied with being young and rich, he thought he’d go get his eternal life ticket from Jesus. How awesome that would be – having it all in this life and the next!
But Jesus ruined his plans and he went away sad. Jesus had challenged his innermost determination of who he was going to be. “I’m going to be rich. I’m going to be in control of my own destiny.” Given that determination there was no room left for Jesus.
When these students move to their next stage of life they will likely be faced with greater freedom than they’ve ever had. No longer will Mom & Dad, their pastors, teachers and community be looking over their shoulder or following their every move. Whatever they’ve been up to this point, they can decide to to be something different now. And no one will be there to remind them of what they were.
Such freedom is awesome. I think it is a tremendous gift of God. Some of them who have not done well – who who have not stood out from the crowd in any way up to this point – will make decisions that radically transform their lives for the better. Some, however, will make a different kind of decision. Free of the down home folks, they’ll make their home in the far country, forgetting their past – even the good parts.
I will challenge these students to determine here and now to be followers of Jesus – that whatever direction they take in life, it will be in the company of Jesus. If their primary decision is to follow Jesus, that determination will give them resources to handle the rest of life.
Last week I took my oldest children to see Iron Man. It looks like a typical super hero action movie, but it’s really about Tony Stark’s character development. At the end of the movie Tony is in a news conference about the extraordinary events preceding. He knows it’s to his advantage to keep quiet about his alter ego as Iron Man. His advisers agreed on that. But Tony’s last words were, “I am Iron Man.” Why’d he do it? He’d determined – contrary to his former way of living – to be a person who told the truth. Having made that determination, he didn’t have to agonize over particular situations as they came along. As a truth-teller, he told the truth.
The graduates have thousands of decisions ahead of them. Some big, some not so big. My prayer for them that all those decisions will be made in the context of a primary decision to be a follower of Jesus.