Graduation season is upon us. That means family, friends and loved ones have completed some level of education, whether that be high school or at the collegiate level, and we congratulate them on their accomplishments.
Completing a level of education means that the student has in some way, advanced their thinking, gained knowledge on a specific subject, or an array of subjects, and come out of this educational experience wiser than before, or so we should hope.
I end that last sentence due to a commencement ceremony over the weekend that has taken the internet by storm. You may have seen it already. I’m talking about commencement ceremonies at the University of Notre Dame.
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, let me do my best to share the facts. Vice President Mike Pence was selected to address the class of 2017 in front of their friends and family. Some graduates got up and walked out of the ceremony before Vice President Pence delivered his address. Vice President Pence then delivered his message to graduates. Those are the facts.
Now, whether or not I agree with Vice President Pence politically, I do respect the office he holds and country he serves. In Romans chapter 13, Paul calls us to respect the laws of the land, saying that those who serve as authorities do so because God allows them to, and they are His servants (v. 4).
In the same chapter the Lord tells us, “…You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” (v. 9).
As Reverend John Jenkins introduced Vice President Pence, he challenged students to look past the differences they have in people who don’t think like they do and to hear what it is that those unlike them are saying. He encouraged dialogue among disagreeing parties.
I specifically enjoyed when Jenkins made the point, “At Notre Dame, we must strive for something higher. We must speak the truth we know and challenge the injustice we see. But we must also listen to those who disagree, care for the bonds that join us together and find ways to build a society where all can flourish – even the people who don’t look like us, think like us, or vote with us.”
So beyond disrespecting what the Lord calls us to do as Christians, these students who walked out disrespected Vice President Pence, Reverend Jenkins, their school and the principles on which it was founded and now stands.
Furthermore, what does it say to future employers about how these students as employees will face adversity or handle a situation in which they disagree with a co-worker, client etc? To me, it says they will either quit when pushed to their limit or a be a nightmare for that company’s human resources department.
Granted, some of those who walked out may have done so more as a statement to President Trump, and Vice President Pence was the messenger. But how do we as Christians address these situations in which emotions are through the roof?
First, I suggest loving the people with whom you disagree. Whether they are not your same skin color, or homosexual, atheist, etc, they have been crafted by our Lord and Savior. He cares about them; you should also take time to care about them as a human being, rather than an opinion.
Next I suggest hearing your opposing party out. Have you taken a second to stop shouting at those who oppose your view to hear what they are shouting back? We have all too many shouters today and not enough listeners. Be a listener and people will more readily listen to you. That isn’t a guarantee, but if you can make a small difference, why can’t the change you want to see start with you?
The Lord says in Matthew 5:5, “blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.” He goes on to say, “blessed are the peacemakers because they will be called sons of God.” He does not say blessed are the loudest for they will be heard. No, His approach is one we should emulate.
Last, I suggest you think. This sounds like a given, right? But let me assure you, in today’s world that does most of the thinking for us, just think. Take a second and think about what your actions, your next words, even your thoughts will cause.
We learn in science that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction; the same goes for the social justice warriors of today. Don’t think your actions can’t and won’t catch up with you. Consult the Lord in all things. Especially in the most important decisions of your life, which you will likely be making post any sort of graduation.
As Christians, we are to hold ourselves to a higher standard than the world. We are not of the world, merely in it. We are not called to blend in to the sin-saturated cultural norms, but rise above them and standout as His children. I challenge you to do just that and change as many hearts as possible on along the way. Show the love of the Lord and have His voice be heard, not your own.