Let life commence!
Tis the season of graduation and graduation speeches.
What do you have to say to those who have completed high school or college and are now commencing with life? How might we take what high-profile commencement speakers are saying as a way of entering into conversation with the next generation?
Take for instance, Oprah Winfrey’s speech to the graduates of the Annenburg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. Like many other graduation speakers this year, Winfrey made a number of observations about the current political and journalistic climate. She encouraged those graduating to be “truth seekers” but where does a person operating out of a postmodern worldview of relativism seek truth in a post-truth culture?
That’s a good question for you and I to ask the young people around us. Imagine the conversation.
You or me: “Did you hear Oprah Winfrey’s commencement speech?”
(If no, then pull it up on your phone and listen together!)
Young person: “Yes, I thought it was good.”
You or me: “Me too. She got me thinking about some things. When she encouraged the graduates to be truth seekers, how would you do that? Where would you go to seek truth?”
And with that, you’re off and running!
As Christians we know the One who is the Way and the Truth and the Life and we also know the father of lies who leads people by deceit and deception down paths of destruction. You can advocate for the former and warn against the latter.
Look through Winfrey’s speech and seek to discern those places where you might leverage what she has said in a conversation with a next gen individual:
Apple CEO Tim Cook delivered the commencement speech at Duke University. Cook appealed to graduates to be fearless and his speech is filled with opportunity to point out the Christian foundations of secular hope.
After identifying a litany of what’s wrong in the world, Cook said, “No generation has ever held more power than yours. And no generation has been able to make change happen faster than yours can. The pace at which progress is possible has accelerated dramatically. Aided by technology, every individual has the tools, potential, and reach to build a better world.”
And the Christian asks, “What do you mean by better? How would you know what is better and for whom?”
Looking back over the list of ills we assume Cook sees unity as superior to division, tolerance as better than intolerance, and equality as better than inequality. But based on what? Either he does not know or does not bother to say that his sense of a “better” world is based on the Bible’s revelation that God created all human beings with an inherent dignity, equality, and promise.
The Christian can also point out that Cook’s empowerment based on technology falls short of the greatest power available: the dunamis of God – the very power of the Holy Spirit available through Jesus Christ.
Cook went on to call the graduates to reject the status quo, be different, and then he settled in on a call to be fearless.
“Fearlessness means taking the first step, even if you don’t know where it will take you. It means being driven by a higher purpose, rather than by applause. It means knowing that you reveal your character when you stand apart, more than when you stand with the crowd,” Cook said.
Let’s unpack that. What does his description of fearlessness sound like to those with ears to hear and minds set on things above? It sounds a lot like faith. And faith in Christ provides a foundation for fearlessness grounded in God’s sovereignty, faithfulness and redemptive plan. Cook provides no basis for the fearlessness he promotes. You can.
Tim Cook ended his speech with a quote from a Martin Luther King, Jr. sermon at Duke in 1964, saying, “Martin Luther King stood right here at Duke, and said: “The time is always right to do right.”
Again, the Christian is able to identify right from wrong and good from evil because we know the character and will of the One who is righteous and good.
In this graduation season, what would you say to those on the threshold of adult responsibilities as they take flight? Take some time to write your own commencement message and then share with those in the next generation the wisdom not only of your years, but of your faith.
Here’s what I’d say to graduates:
- While there is nothing new under the sun, God’s mercies are new every morning.
- While you are indeed the brightest and best, you would do well not to think of yourself more highly than you ought. Humility is more valuable than you might now imagine.
- While the world provides opportunities for you to make it big, if you don’t do the small things right in terms of your relationships, making it big will be very lonely.
- While amassing followers, fame and fortune may seem attractive, being a follower of Jesus Christ, making His name famous and living with the knowledge that you have set before you an imperishable inheritance in Heaven, will propel you to a life of significance the world may not recognize nor understand. But I can attest, it is the only life worth living.
- Today doesn’t mean you stop learning. Discipleship is a lifelong process of growing up in every way into Christ who is the head.
- I pray for you today the four life-changing prayers of the Apostle Paul:
- Ephesians 1:17-19
- Ephesians 3:16-19
- Philippians 1:9-11
- Colossians 1:9-12