Headlines from First Thoughts

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

College Students--Crisis and Hope

This has been a rough few weeks on the college campuses in our country. We have seen what a handful of people can do to shame, change, and destroy the lives of innocents. At Duke University, one woman and a rogue prosecutor changes the lives of a LaCrosse Team. In New York, the bigoted Don Imus and his sidekick treat the Rutgers women’s team as just another object to be scorned. In Blacksburg, a student destroys the lives of 32 students and mars their families forever.

What’s happening here? Each incident is different, but all have a common element. College students whose lives are changed by a handful of people wreaking havoc. When placed alongside each other, one act of violence builds and reaches a climax with killing. In a very short window of time, we catch a glimpse of the ongoing issues in our society, and the intersection of these events is the university campus.

Jesus warned us that angry words were just as harmful as weapons. We have known that for a long time. But what remains to be seen is whether we can stop the spread of this kind of vitriol, if we can do more than simply control weapons but if people can get a hold on culture that seems to glorify hate, anger, and retribution toward others.

This was not the first time people confronted anger and hostility toward others. In the book of Acts, we read of one trial scene after another when ethnic Jewish and Gentile people were at odds with one another. In Ephesus, the tensions were so heated that it took a magistrate to calm them down before the violence got out of hand.

In light of what he learned in the real world of violence, Paul said, this does not have the last word. He places the world’s systems on trial and announces that the charges against humanity have been dropped because of the power of the cross. A handful of people may seem to control these things, but one Person is really in charge. The cross is the beginning of the last word. He asks in Romans 8, “Who will bring a charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns?” he asks rhetorically. The power of the cross says that the past actions of people do not determine the present. God’s work in the past on the cross and his work in the future to bring about the redemption of the world changes the present of our lives. God has not given up on the world, even on those who seek to harm others.

In my view, this solution is being seen ironically on the college campus. In 2001, two women defied the odds and went into the heart of hate, vengeance and spite against women. Heather Mercer and Dayna Curry left the safe confines of Waco, Texas, where Heather had recently graduated and Dayna was finishing a degree to become missionaries among the Taliban. People thought they were stupid; they felt it was their mission. These two women were kidnapped in Afghanistan but became examples of what college students are doing. Despite the hate, blame, arrogance, and vitriol hurled at innocent lives, they are ignoring the voices and rushing into the action. The world has hope because of many more like them who know that kind of strength that only comes through the power of the cross.

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