Why University Changes our Young People (Part 2)
How can you let a sinner convince you that, "You can come in with us, you don't have to dance", "you don't have to drink alcohol", "there's nothing wrong with a hug". Young people need a set of non-negotiables in mind: things that you just won't do because, although nothing bad might come of it there is usually ZERO CHANCE of anything good coming from it.
A sense of personal style or fashion [the arena for the lust of the eyes]
Now I've not seen any believers turn out to university in plain folk clothes – I mean sowed by mamma and shoes made by daddy. Truth is: we mostly don't make our own clothes (yet). Better still I've hardly met young people that want to be different, I mean they don't want to stick out like a sore thumb (and neither did I). Modesty boundaries, however, are being constantly pushed. We are in an age, at least in the West, where we can source much of anything we need via the internet – if we really wanted it. We use to talk about whether skirts were long enough – we are now made to feel outmoded to suggest that a woman of God should NOT wear trousers. So I'm in the strange situation often (close your ears Moses) of discussing the finer points of which trousers are more modest for women or if a stud is more modest than ring in a man's ear!
There's no doubt a scriptural basis for:
The church to look different from the world (1 Peter1:14 – "...not fashioning yourselves according to the FORMER LUSTS...") – that would preach (as they say).
For women to be distinguishable from men in dress: (Deuteronomy 22:5 – "The woman shall not wear that which pertaineth unto a man...")
And for denying ourselves... (Matthew 16:14)
I'm not arguing with anyone about the interpretation of the above; needless to say we have no such customs in the church (1 Corinthians 11:16) and as such I acknowledge them [as customs] – not a mark of a true believer, but a mark of one who observes the denial of self for the purpose of modesty, distinction and peculiarity (1 Peter 2:9) in obedience to spirit of the Word. (There are many things that "rightly dressed" Christians can fail to observe that pertain to other requirements of character [unseen]; like taking that plank out of your own eye before trying to move a splinter from someone else's etc...).
Who are you really?
So young people are being asked a question by the eyes of those around them: who are you? What can we learn from the way you dress, the way you style your hair, the shoes, the walk, the language? Who are you? Now I guarantee you when we are introducing ourselves in the seminar room or at the front of the lecture theatre that nobody says I am Sister or Brother so and so. And that's ok, because Brother Jesus wouldn't either.
The church does not prescribe a uniform as in some extreme forms of Islam. Prescription has its pros and cons. The church in the main has abused the word modesty as much as our governments have subverted the meaning of marriage. So a church in flux does no favours to a young person with living examples of modesty and immodesty in the same church or in the kingdom at large. Most young people that I know want to be modest but don't want to look out of place.
When I was in college (17 years old), I was met by a variety of styles and fashions. I left my home borough and had a change scenery, almost completely. For me the most outstanding style was the gothics. I'd identified that music had a strong part to play in how a majority of the students dressed. But one of the nicest and kindest people that I got to know through one of my classes was a "goth". Dressed in black from head to toe, massive Doc Martins, ring in the tongue. Emma was her name. What I learned from Emma was: a) you can define who you want to be; b) it doesn't matter if you're in a minority; c) at the end of the day, it's your attitude towards people that says more about who you are than what you wear. This may sound like a contradiction - but these are the lessons she taught me, which I recall for good reason.
A time to take a stand
I mention this experience to say that college and university represent a key moment for our young people to affirm a strong Christ-like identity. It is much an environment of tolerance and acceptance as it is a challenge. People will accept you for who you are – the real question is why does it matter to YOU so much what they think about you?
The lust of the eyes causes a great conflict for us as young people. We have set our eyes upon many things that have made an indelible mark on our psyche/spirit. It could be the type person we admire in our hearts, which many times is person whose outlook on life is in conflict with our Christian walk. We've gone to church all our lives, we respect our ministers and pastors, but we don't want the things that they have, we tend to want what we SEE the world has. We've traded in spiritual values and wealth for a set of worldly milestones that point to prosperity. For example, the world has key iconic possessions that tell a story of success. It's not about how much joy you have, or how righteous you are, or your peace of mind: it is about branded items. Not a car, but the type of car; not a handbag, but the type of handbag; not house, but where is your house located and the size of it; not a phone but the brand of phone. Unfortunately, too many have treated such items, not as means to an end but an end itself (Matthew 6:31,32).
The Christian going into university must be determined to be associated with Christ as a "brand". It's the occasion for a T-shirt that proclaims Him. The closet Christian will soon find he is no Christian at all. The Lord Jesus Christ is great company to be in. He is a true revolutionary who speaks to the heart of every human. University is a time where all the theory of what we said we are and what we said we believe about God is put into practice. I say seize it and don't get caught in a trap of trying to please everybody. There are people that need you to be godly and upright, holy, honest and virtuous.
STAND OUT – yes you're meant to
Christ describes us as the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). To stand out the way we really should we need to address our mind-set first. What does a good Christian look like, not merely in dress but in character? What is it that I believe about God, that in a perverse generation could make me different at a glance? (See the article: You become like what you look at). The summary of that article is that we turn into the things we admire the most, therefore the enemy does much to keep our eyes off Christ and his Word.
It is true that Christ was not distinguishable by the way he looked (Isaiah 53:2). Nevertheless, it is safe to say, the culture was not an immodest one. A harlot was distinguishable from a woman of honour (Leviticus 19:29). Men were distinguishable from women and as such the spirit of the law still pervaded much of Jewish society. Christ, however, drew crowds wherever he went, they followed him into the desert, and at one point they couldn't arrest him because: "never a man spake like this" (John 7:46). His words were mesmerising, outstanding, and distinguished.
Remedy: a good Christian looks like – a bad Christian looks like
Many don't know when they're falling short – Father fill with the Holy Ghost power. The word of God is not given to show us how to survive without the Holy Spirit. Every believer needs the Spirit of Christ to dwell in them as teacher and mentor (1 John 2:27). And every believer must live to not grieve the Holy Spirit nor cause his departure through careless living (Ephesians 4:30). It is ultimately the Holy Spirit that tells us what a bad Christian looks like by virtue of how we are chastised on our personal walk with Him (Revelation 3:19) - so we need a spiritual ear to hear what the spirit says to the church.
The Psalmist said: "I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes" (Psalm 101:3). Again we need to be honest about the things we have set our eyes on; the things that we admire in our hearts. We need to bring them before the Lord and get from him a picture of what in our own lives is acceptable in His sight (Psalm 19:14). (This advice must be applied to every area of our life, from what we have seen our parents do in the home, to what we have watched in movies, to things that we have discussed with others – it's not always good and it's not always acceptable).
This boils down to more than the holiness required to see God (Hebrews 12:14), but an understanding of His will for our lives and how that should manifest in our daily actions (Ephesians 5:15-17). For example, what does the Lord want to perfect me in (Psalm 138:8)? And how will how I spend my time be affected by knowledge of this? No evangelist grows practicing sermons in a bedroom, he needs to meet with people and open his mouth. No spiritual warrior is going to get equipped for battle just reading scriptures and doing Bible studies; they need to get on their knees and engage in intercessory prayer (2 Timothy 2:5).
What does God's version of you look like on a good day?
When you look at the sacrifices made by Daniel, the commitment of John the Baptist, the journeys of the Apostle Paul, you get the RIGHT brand of inspiration. If you focus on modern lukewarm examples of celebrity pastors, celebrity singers, and a money-grabbing pulpit you just won't get fired up the way you need to.
So ultimately, LOOKING UNTO JESUS, the author and finisher of faith, and considering him who suffered such contradiction of sinners against himself (Hebrews 12:2,3)– let us hold fast and not be deterred by the passing, fleeting pleasures of this world but stay focussed on his sacrifice for us. In so doing may we soak up his brand of giving [of self] that we may excel in his brand of living. Paul put it this way: if we die like he died we'll be raised as he was raised (Romans 6:5). We have to die right to live right. Take all of me Lord!
(Read the Part 3 - which contains top tips for parents and students).