Just a quick word of encouragement to any Christian students at Harvard who may be reading this. Many of us who are a part of the various Christian ministries at Harvard are currently engaged with high intensity and focus on reaching out to the incoming class of freshmen. It’s a crazy time–many large group events, too many names and conversations to remember, and yes, awkward moments galore for all the introverts among us. There’s something in it for the whole family.
Nonetheless, I want to exhort and encourage the Christians at Harvard–whatever campus fellowship you are a part of, whatever church you belong to, whatever organization or group you are recruiting for–to take this brief interval of time seriously, to be humbly aggressive and lovingly bold with the gospel, and to be intentional in stepping out in faith. Take the initiative with the many freshmen who are currently unknown to us, whether they be Christians already or not. For the sake of Jesus, for the sake of the gospel, and for the sake of our neighbors whom we are called to love with a realistic love. I know we all have hectic lives and schedules of our own. I know it’s profoundly inconvenient and not particularly fun (well, not for the introverts). Almost nothing is natural here.
I also know it’s easy for we enlightened intellectuals to mock any attempts at real evangelism that are done poorly and without nuance or sensitivity, and to scorn those who actually take Jesus and the gospel seriously if they dare to do it in a way that offends the delicate, self-centered cultural sensibilities of this present evil age. That’s a spectacularly easy mindset to fall into. And cheap. And dishonest and cowardly, if Jesus actually rose from the dead. But do not throw out the baby with the bathwater. Not here. Flee from that perception of the matter, repent of it, do whatever needs to be done to disown it entirely in your soul. Then strap back on the shoes of the gospel, which even today continue to make beautiful the feet of those who wear them, who bring its message of hope and deliverance from sin, death and hell.
But perhaps more tangible motivation is needed, so here’s a solid reality that ought to give rise to such an attitude toward the new freshmen, one that I find personally compelling and binding upon my soul. C. S. Lewis, Paul and Penn–each in their own distinctive way–hold it up to the light for us to consider:
“In the end that Face which is the delight or the terror of the universe must be turned upon each of us either with one expression or with the other, either conferring glory inexpressible or inflicting shame that can never be cured or disguised…St. Paul promises to those who love God not, as we should expect, that they will know Him, but that they will be known by Him (1 Cor. 8:3). It is a strange promise. Does not God know all things at all times? But it is dreadfully re-echoed in another passage of the New Testament. There [Matthew 7] we are warned that it may happen to anyone of us to appear at last before the face of God and hear only the appalling words, ‘I never knew you. Depart from Me.’ In some sense, as dark to the intellect as it is unendurable to the feelings, we can be both banished from the presence of Him who is present everywhere and erased from the knowledge of Him who knows all. We can be left utterly and absolutely outside–repelled, exiled, estranged, finally and unspeakably ignored. On the other hand, we can be called in, welcomed, received, acknowledged. We walk every day on the razor edge between these two incredible possibilities…It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbor. The load, or weight, or burden of my neighbor’s glory should be laid on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations–these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit–immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously.” (C. S. Lewis, “The Weight of Glory“)
“We must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, knowing the fear of the Lord, we persuade others…For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are in our right mind, it is for you. For the love of Christ controls us…From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.1 All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. Working together with him, then, we appeal to you: do not receive the grace of God in vain.” (II Corinthians 5:10-6:1)