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Graduating to the Real World


“Do all things without complaining and disputing,  that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,  holding fast the word of life.” (Phil. 2:14-16)

Formal education is a time of preparation. That is the way it is seen in the world, and by Christians as well. We strive to prepare our young people for what is coming in life. Of course that includes preparing for a job, profession, or vocation. In the world it is seen as especially important that an education expose young people to new and different ways of thinking, challenge their values, and broaden their intellectual and cultural standards. The Christian educator would agree that it is important to open the eyes of the student to what is out there in the world; however, it may be with much more caution and far less blanket endorsement. 

So it is at this time of year that our thoughts turn to those who have now successfully completed their course of instruction. The time has now come for them to move on—either to the next level of schooling or into that world about which they have heard so much, but from which they have been sheltered or restrained to one degree or another. So what is the Lord’s message for His children venturing out into the world? The counsel of the Apostle Paul in our text is appropriate for us all. We should recognize our responsibilities as children of God and fulfill those roles for which the Lord has prepared us, without complaining or arguing about it. We all should strive to live lives that are seen by those around us in the world as blameless and harmless. The point of this is not that we should be praised, but that we might shine as lights in a crooked and perverse world. It is that light that shines in our hearts that distinguishes us from the world.

That light is the light of the glory of Christ. He came into the world to serve, to give His life for us “that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works.” (Titus 2:14) He paid for us with His holy and precious blood and freed us from the slavery of sin that still dominates this world. As Christian graduates leave the halls of academia and go out into the world, they need to go out armed with the knowledge of this truth so that they might continue to shine as lights in this sin-darkened world.

That leaves us with one important thought.

We have heard it time and again, but it still bears repeating: we all need to continue to learn. I heard a radio talk show host comment that people need to continue to read books in their field if they are serious about achieving success in their lives. This advice is doubly important for the child of God as he lives in this world. The Apostle Paul reminds us of our need to hold fast to the Word of life. No matter what our occupation may be, we need to remain well-versed in this Word of life for our vocation as children of God. Then we will continue always to shine as lights in this world, that others may see our good works and glorify our Father in heaven (Matthew 5:16).

Theodore Barthels is pastor of St. Paul’s Evangelical Lutheran Church in Austin, Minnesota.