As you consider fitting in at school, this section and the next speak to ways that we can be a light on campus. The first way is that we can bring up our faith in conversations with friends, classmates, and teachers. While this is challenging and nerve-wracking sometimes, it is a call that we must answer.
The Great Commission, an oft-quoted passage, is the main place to go when looking at our call to evangelize. First stop: tell people about the Gospel and the God that you love and serve. Second stop: make disciples and guide new believers through the beginning steps of faith as they mature. It is a difficult task and one that takes initiative (in starting conversations) and endurance (in developing and continuing relationships). It takes practice, persistence, and patience. Believe me, I’ve watched this process happen, but it is a challenge to follow through with it. Look for opportunities, fight discouragement, and know that the first stop doesn’t always lead to the second. The Holy Spirit may or may not save the people you talk to, but it is still vitally important to start the conversation and get the Gospel out there.
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.
Matthew 28:19-20 NASB
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation; that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
2 Corinthians 5:17-21 NASB
Be bold. You’ve been given amazing hope through a radical transformation by an almighty, just, and very loving God!
Telling people about Christ is not always easy or appropriate in the moment, but we are commanded to speak up. If you take a look at the Psalms, the Psalmists had such a love for the Lord and spent the time to meditate on His attributes and kind actions that He was perpetually on their lips. Let’s strive to be eager to take opportunities to share with others about the amazing salvation of our Savior!
I will tell of your name to my brothers;
in the midst of the congregation I will praise you:
You who fear the Lord, praise him!
Psalm 22:22-23 NASB
Let them be put to shame and disappointed altogether
who rejoice at my calamity!
Let them be clothed with shame and dishonor
who magnify themselves against me!
Let those who delight in my righteousness
shout for joy and be glad and say evermore,
“Great is the Lord,
who delights in the welfare of his servant!”
Then my tongue shall tell of your righteousness
and of your praise all the day long.
Psalm 35:26-28 NASB
Oh sing to the Lord a new song;
sing to the Lord, all the earth!
Sing to the Lord, bless his name;
tell of his salvation from day to day.
Declare his glory among the nations,
his marvelous works among all the peoples!
Psalm 96:1-3 NASB
Come and hear, all you who fear God,
and I will tell what he has done for my soul.
I cried to him with my mouth,
and high praise was on my tongue.
Psalm 66:16-17 NASB
It is important to consider how you will go about making Gospel conversation as you begin your friendships at school. It’s always a good idea to make friends with a plan to share the gospel with them and actually do it. If Christ is really the center of your life, it should be somewhat natural to talk about Him and what He has done in your life and why you act the way that you do. Friendships with unbelievers should be founded on a desire to share the hope that you have with them and if you’re up front about Christ from the beginning, there is less time for fear to discourage you. There is also a level of accountability in telling your friends about the God of the Bible because they see your actions and can spot contradictions between what you say and how you talk or act.
Another thing to consider is how you will word your presentations of the Gospel. Be respectful of other people’s views and cultures, but know that many people will listen if you present thoughtfully. At Penn, especially, there is a certain openness about religion and opinions that can allow you to have a gentle discussion about your beliefs. Take advantage of how Penn values diversity and own up to what you stand for.
…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame.
1 Peter 3:15-16 NASB
Remember, creating Gospel conversations is not about how much you know about archaeology or history. Those elements can be distractions used to put you on the defense and create unmanageable arguments based around peripheral details. They detract from the main message. Sharing the Gospel is about Jesus Christ.
What if you should suffer?
While it seems unlikely that any of us will truly suffer for Christ at Penn, there is absolutely a possibility. We need to be firm in standing for Christ and be prepared for the worst suffering that we could imagine for the sake of His name. More likely, though, you will face rejection. It may be that you lose friends, and it may be that the friends you have refuse to listen to you speak about the God that you love and serve. Harkening back to the loneliness section — you may have more difficulty making friends right away because you are up front about your faith. However, the Bible offers encouragement to this end.
“These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
John 16:33 NASB
Now who is there to harm you if you are zealous for what is good? But even if you should suffer for righteousness’ sake, you will be blessed. Have no fear of them, nor be troubled, but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.
1 Peter 3:13-20 NASB
So, we can have peace and courage because of God’s power and sovereignty.
In addition, let’s understand and remember the value of suffering. While it is far from easy, it is an important part of our walk as believers and leads to sanctification and Christ-likeness. It sets our minds on God and the eternity which we look forward to. We hope in God all the more when we endure trying periods in our lives and the refining process causes us to shine all the more brightly for Christ. Let’s recall that though we may suffer rejection, Christ suffered the same. God, who is omnipresent and, thus, always with us, can sympathize with the struggles we face. He will uphold us as we persevere.
Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand; and we exult in hope of the glory of God. And not only this, but we also exult in our tribulations, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character; and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.
Romans 5:1-5 NASB
Note from Katherine
Talking about your faith is hard. Many Christians, myself included, avoid sharing their faith with others because they are afraid of the outcome. Nobody wants to be judged or looked down on because of their beliefs. However, I urge you to think about the cost. Whether or not a person decides to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior is the most important decision they can make in their life. Eternal life is at stake! Telling others about God is simply the most loving thing you can do. I encourage you to watch this very thought provoking video. A committed atheist describes why he believes Christians should spread the Gospel message, even though he doesn’t believe it himself.