Campus Unrest and the Young Christian
In the tumult that often pervades today's college campuses the young Christian often finds himself confronted with the problem of "confrontation." What posture should the young Christian assume towards the problems and passions of a boiling campus situation? Since I am a young Christian myself, and safely on the youthful side of the infamous "generation gap," I want to suggest a few thoughts concerning this contemporary question.
The young Christian's thinking upon the crisis of confrontation usually centers around two basic aspects of this problem. The young Christian is likely to ask (1) what is my responsibility concerning the problems which are troubling today's college students? and, (2) in dealing with these problems that usually involve confrontation, what principles should govern my actions?
The basic responsibility of all Christians, young and old, is that of concern. The life of Christ was not lived in seclusion. Jesus lived in and among people. He was concerned and involved with his fellow man. The Christian ought to be concerned about the problems which are besetting his fellow man. The apostle John said, "If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, cannot love God whom he hath not seen." In Galatians 6:10, Paul said, "So then, as we have opportunity, let us work that which is good toward all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of faith." Thus we can conclude that as Christians we need to be concerned about all men and especially those who are our brothers.
However the young Christian's concern for his fellow man is not the only consideration involved in his decision to become involved in the solution of a problem. Our concern should be tempered by two principles before we even begin to formulate a plan of action. The most important consideration is God's word. It is important that we should be concerned about all of man's needs, but it is imperative that as Christians we realize that man is not profited if he gains the whole world only to lose his own soul. Therefore our primary consideration is what is necessary for us to remain in the proper relationship with God, and what action is the best for the spiritual benefit of mankind.
After the problem is analyzed and the scriptures consulted, the Christian has a basis upon which to make a decision. Should he act or not? Should he become involved or abstain? Certainly this decision must rest upon the conclusions of the investigation and the desires of the individual. But, if one makes the decision to become involved in a problem, he must then face the problem as to what principles involving behavior should govern his actions.
One of the primary concerns of the young Christian would have to be his relation to the law. Romans 13:1-7 instructs us of the purpose of government. God instituted government for the purpose of administering civil discipline which includes law enforcement. The Christian could not become involved in any movement which defies or refuses to recognize the government's ordained powers and responsibilities. Thus a Christian could not be involved in a movement founded upon the principles of civil disobedience, nor could he participate in the more tragic forms of mob violence and lawlessness which are being promoted at an ever alarming rate.
There are still other demonstrations that do not involve either violation of law or violence. Can a Christian engage in these forms of protest? Is there a principle that governs such activity? Paul instituted the principle that could be applied to this situation when be told Timothy, "Let not man despise thy youth; but be thou an ensample to them that believe, in word, in manner of life, in love, in faith, in purity." Every young man who has ever tried to preach or any preacher who can remember his days as a "boy preacher" can most likely vouch for the wisdom of Paul's advice. A young man must prove that he deserves the audience of older and wiser men. Although Paul's advice to Timothy centered upon Timothy's actions in the church, it could well serve as a life principle for the young. When the young Christian acts he must take care that his actions are such that they earn him the respect of others, not their disdain. This requires self-control, humility, and a mature character. Not every thing that youth believes is wrong simply because it is the result of young minds. The older and wiser men in positions of power are undoubtedly aware of that fact, but many causes championed by student movements which could have played a constructive role in our society have failed simply because the student leaders have given the older generation a reason for despising their youth rather than respecting it.
With the principles set before us, and the media supplying us with a seemingly unending stream of documentation of the nature of the current campus unrest, the conclusion that I must make is that the young Christian and campus unrest are incompatible. They do not go together. This does not mean that the young Christian can not be concerned about the problems which are gripping this nation. Of all people in this campus community, the young Christian should be the greatest force for reform. The Christian should have a better understanding of the meaning of life, his life should command respect of both his peers and his elders, and his life should influence his associates. Therefore the young Christian can lead the way to a more reasonable solution to whatever problem may be besieging his campus: Certainly a better solution than the riot, unrest, and outright lawlessness that is so prevalent in this country today.
TRUTH MAGAZINE, XVI: 2, pp. 10-11