Her eye contact and head nod from the podium lets me know that it is now my turn to head to the stage to give the final awards and closing remarks.
I never liked the idea of standing on stage the entirety of graduation, even as the principal, because the students, in my opinion, should receive as much shine as possible. And the teachers, the ones who designed the lessons, taught and corrected, and mentored day in and day out, deserve some shine, too. So I position myself in the back of the auditorium, helping stragglers find seats, as I watch with pride and a smile.
But the time comes when I must make my way to the front. I know that my message will fall flat with some and provoke derision with others. I press on anyway, knowing that in some a seed will be planted, in some an idea will be watered, and in some validation will be provided.
“Your character will take you farther and open more doors than your intellect or attractiveness ever will. I promise you that your education and beauty mean very little without strength of character. Remember, graduates, to be kinder to others than they are to you. In so doing, you’ll be surprised how far you rise.”
My message is not one of monetary prosperity or even one of professional accolades. It’s not a popular message that will compel throngs to click or like. Instead, it is one of a much higher value. It is one that requires a perspective of grace, of mercy, and of unselfish regard for others: love.
Here we are, the day after Roe v. Wade is overturned, and the only thing on my mind is the lack of humility and compassion that seems to have taken over our country. What appears to be common sense on one side of the aisle is downright foolish on the other. Everyone feels oppressed, ignored, and disrespected, and everyone seems to be jockeying for control and power. I wonder in moments when everyone feels that they are “right” if anyone really is. I wonder if we have collectively forgotten that we exist in a fallen world, where sin is a daily battle, and where we are all in need of the redeeming power of Christ’s blood.
If we are honest, we will admit that no matter the earthly position we take on any number of controversial issues (i.e., abortion rights, same-sex marriage, affirmative action, etc.), there is a command we often ignore: “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15: 12, NIV). His command is not to love those who think like you, believe what you believe, or will be persuaded by you. In fact, Jesus came to save thieves, prostitutes, murderers, and women seeking abortions, those bombing abortion clinics, those protesting in the streets for women’s reproductive freedom, those abusing their power and raping women, and those making the ultimate decision about constitutional protections as it pertains to abortion. And He came to save everyone else, too! It is a humbling and tough truth: “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3: 23, NIV).
Friend, this post today is not one that will take a side on abortion. To be honest, the lack of Christian kindness and love concerns me more. I choose to do as Paul encouraged the church at Corinth: “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves” (2 Corinthians 13: 5, NIV). I choose to pray as David prayed: “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Psalms 139: 23-24, NIV). I choose to check my positions and resultant actions against those of Christ to see if and how I am measuring up. Because, after all, isn’t that the only thing that matters?
“But He was pierced for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on Him, and by His wounds we are healed.” (Isaiah 53: 5, NIV)