I was honored, or to use the current cliché, beyond honored, last week to give the baccalaureate address at Liberty University, and I was humbled that the school would bestow upon me an honorary doctorate. I told the students I felt like the Scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. The moment it was awarded to me, I suddenly got smarter. I felt it. The first words that came to mind were, “the square of the hypotenuse of a right triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of the remaining sides.”
Well, I’m hopeful the rest of what I told Liberty’s Class of 2014 was more helpful.
My advice to the graduates actually can be summed up in two words: “Follow Jesus.” Obviously I said more, but everything I did say came back to those two words.
I told the graduates that, from my perspective, it seemed like only minutes had passed since I was in their position. Therefore, before they knew it, they’d be fifty years old themselves.
I said that not to depress them, because I myself actually like being fifty, but to remind them that our time on Earth is short, and what’s more, we are aware of its fleeting nature. It can hardly be otherwise, as C. S. Lewis said, because we were not made for time but for eternity, which is outside of time. Thus time feels strange to us.
The question then is this: What are we to do in the midst of this strange sojourn? We are to redeem the time we’ve been given. Every single day and everything we do counts because we are not our own. Our money, our families, our talents, and even our time are not our own. Because we’ve been bought with a price: The suffering and death of the perfect Son of God.
Our lives must be an expression of gratitude for what God has done for us. I’m not talking about a dour religiosity, but a life lived in the full and joyful realization that doing the Father’s will, as Jesus did, is the only true source of happiness and fulfillment.
I told the soon-to-be graduates that God had invited them on a grand adventure: to join Him and His Son as soldiers in the war against sin and rebellion and darkness using the weapons of love.
In other words, to be the Church.
Being the Church, I said, requires a willingness to speak the truth, even when it’s unpopular and even when it carries adverse consequences. I reminded the students and their friends and families that around the world Christians are being jailed, tortured, and killed for following Jesus. So we here in the U. S. shouldn’t let the risk of, for example, losing our tax-exempt status cause us to remain silent when God is calling us to speak.
After all, if we can’t speak what Jesus would have us say today, then what Gospel do we really have? We would be little more than chaplains to the culture, speaking at the forbearance of those powerful enough to set their agenda and to define what is and is not acceptable speech.
I ended by quoting a very unlikely source: Pink Floyd. In their song, “Wish You Were Here,” the band asks, “Did you exchange a walk-on part in the war for a lead role in a cage?”
That is the choice facing not only the graduates but every Christian: playing our small part in the struggle God would have us wage against evil or insist on starring in an inconsequential drama of our own making.
For those who would follow Jesus, the choice is clear.
Eric Metaxas is currently the voice of Breakpoint, a radio commentary (www.breakpoint.org) that is broadcast on 400 stations with an audience of eight million.