“Make good choices!” her mother called out through the passenger-side window as she pulled away. Julie heard, but didn’t turn around. She just kept quietly walking through the hoards of other students filing into the school lobby. “Why does mom always say that so loudly, especially in front of my friends?” Julie thought to herself, still gliding toward the front doors as if she were on a moving walkway.
Despite the fact that Julie was in the 10th grade and had been going through the same school system her entire life, school was still an unfamiliar, scary, and pressure-filled place. Moreover, she constantly felt guilt because she wasn’t standing up for Christ as she knew she should. Julie sometimes felt ashamed of Jesus, like the Apostle Peter who denied Jesus when he suddenly became “unpopular.”
As I think about teenagers like Julie, I feel that many parents want to call out to their children “Make good choices!” as they leave to go off to college or begin a career. The interesting thing about making good choices or being a good person is that, if that is all we are – good people – then (on the surface) we are really no different than many moral unbelievers.
As this next class of seniors will be graduating and “heading off,” my mind immediately beings to ask: “What is the greatest pitfall for a graduating teenager?” After thinking hard about this, I am convinced that one of the most dangerous mindsets in America is this: “I deserve.”
From feeling like we deserve houses, cars, and healthcare to thinking we deserve attention, respect, and things to just “go our way,” this mindset is crippling us and one, I believe, is contrary to the Scriptures. In 1 Peter 2, Peter explains that it is a gracious thing when we endure suffering for doing good. Why? Because, in this, we share in the sufferings of Christ. He was reviled yet did not revile in return. When he suffered, he did not threaten. When he was wrongfully whipped and nailed to the cross, he did not call the hosts of heaven to come and destroy his perpetrators.
Instead, the only Righteous One who ever lived, the only One who did not deserve such treatment, endured the cross and despised its shame. What I want to say, not just to graduating seniors is to consider Jesus as our example of humility. Though he deserved honor and power and riches and glory forever, he made himself nothing.
Think of your day today. Have you been angry at all with anybody? It might have been on the commute to work or overhearing somebody at school talk about you. The main reason so many of us get angry is that our “rights” have been violated. I am entitled to be treated well and if you mess with me, then I’ll…you get the idea.
But Jesus says to love your enemies and pray for them. When someone strikes one cheek, he says to turn the other. When somebody steals, give him your cloak as well. When somebody takes your silverware, give him the candlesticks too. If we reviled in return how is that any different from anybody else in this world? It’s not. The life that Jesus offers is not an easy one. It’s not a life many would pay to have. But it is a life that identifies with the Savior of sinners, and in that, we find great peace.
My last call out the window, as it were, would not be to “Make good choices!,” but to “Make Christ your greatest Treasure—above any rights, privileges, entitlement, or earthly fame. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”