So the start of the “Back to School Retreat” season is upon us, and I’m down near Atlanta Georgia working with about 400 students from a local high school. The theme of the weekend is “Un-finished” which I find pretty accurate, as students are working on academics, athletics, college apps, etc. And I’m bringing some thoughts on faith, and spiritual development.
It’s actually really great.
I know some of the readers here would think of 400 high school students running around a retreat center as their personal view of purgatory, but I find it quite different. After all, after 20 years working with kids, just when I think I have it all figured out they shift, they move, and they think a different way.
Today was no different.
I was working with some students and asked them about what it might look like if we just stopped to examine the message of Jesus through the lens of what he actually came to say. Not what we think he said. Not what we’ve been told he said. But actually what he said. I.e. “What if Jesus actually meant what he said, instead of what we try to make him say?”
I read the story where the lawyer comes to ask Jesus a question, “Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 10)
Amazingly enough, Jesus didn’t tell him to repent.
He didn’t tell him to say a prayer.
He didn’t tell him to up his membership at the local church.
He didn’t tell him to stop his sin.
He didn’t even tell him to believe in the Son of God.
His response was, “Tell me what is written in law?”
And the lawyer says, “Love the lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind, and Love your neighbor as yourself.”
Jesus then just turned to him and said, “Do this…and you’ll live.”
As I was reading that passage in front of the 400 students I thought about all the ways man has tried to construct a ritual for gaining the illusive-eternal life. Whether it was the fountain of youth, the enlightenment of Nirvana, or even the last hundred years of Christendom to pledge allegiance to God through a sinner’s prayer, Jesus really didn’t give us any hint any of that was the answer.
Jesus never said that – ANY OF THAT.
He said, Love God and Love Others. How crazy! How Simple! How profound!
After the teaching time was over, I had several students come to me and were asking questions about faith, salvation, and other religious type questions; and I just kept going back to, “Well, if Loving God and Loving your neighbor was good enough for Jesus, I guess that’s good enough for me. So go do that.”
When the meeting was over, I went back to my room and I just kept thinking…Yea, why do we make this life so difficult? Love God. Love my Neighbor. Love Myself. That’s the commandment of the wisest person who ever lived. Why don’t I just do that?
These students are pretty amazing. They’re smart, they’re quick on their feet, and their working through the most interesting time in their faith. Of course some of them are picking their nose in the back, but overall, I’m finding this generation very encouraging to go out and just find the simple way to follow God. They’re tired of laser lights. They’re sick of emotional youth rallies. They just want to focus on the most important things, and I believe that’s Jesus.
It’s pretty great to be in an environment where we can discuss faith without the pressure of religion. Students are getting it, and now; well…off to another session.