David L. Goetsch
Advice For College Students: Remaining Faithful In An Anti-God Environment (Matthew 10:16)
In the Fall, thousands of young Christians who recently graduated from high school will be off to college. Many will attend secular colleges where their Christian views might be rejected and even ridiculed. Anti-God peer pressure will be intense. Helping young Christians remain faithful in such an environment is the purpose of this week’s blog. Please share this blog with any young Christians you know who are college bound in the Fall.
Young Christians who attend secular colleges and universities often feel like sheep in the midst of wolves. The college campus can be a challenging environment for Christians. In Matthew 10:16, Christ told His apostles to be “wise” and “innocent” as they went out to spread the gospel “in the midst of wolves.” This is good advice for Christian college students who live, study, and attend classes with people who sometimes behave like wolves.
The college environment has a way of bringing out the worst in young people. For many, college is the first time they have been on their own without daily adult supervision. It is the first time they’ve had an opportunity to govern their own behavior and make their own choices. For young adults, being on their own and making their own choices can be a good thing, a necessary part of growing up. However, making the right choices in an environment that enables and often encourages bad choices can be a challenge. Adding to this challenge are the secular humanism, moral relativism, political correctness, and anti-Christian bias that prevail on many college and university campuses.
Secular humanism and moral relativism are on the rise in our culture and our institutions of higher education are the principal culprits in their ascension. As a result, many young Christians struggle to maintain their faith while pursuing college degrees. Many drift away from the faith during college. Granted, the college campus can be an unfriendly, unwelcoming place for young Christians. That’s the bad news. The good news is not only can Christians survive in a college environment, they can thrive. The key is to heed Christ’s admonition in Matthew 10:16 to be both “wise” and “innocent.” Being innocent in this context means being faithful to the teachings of Scripture in all situations and on all occasions. Being wise means adeptly applying what Scripture teaches in ways that are positive, constructive, and appropriate.
Appropriate behaviors for Christian college students meet two criteria. First, they are Biblically-correct. They do not compromise one’s faith or the teachings of Scripture. Second, they set a Christ-like example for fellow students, particularly those who don’t know Christ or, worse yet, reject Him. What follows are several strategies from my book, Liberal Tyranny in Higher Education, that will help Christian college students earn their degrees without compromising their faith.
Know what to expect. Before setting foot on a college campus, accept that you are probably entering an environment that does not welcome your Christian beliefs and might even be hostile to them. Don’t be naïve and don’t be shocked by what you see, hear, and are subjected to. The college experience will provide a microcosmic view of the world you will live in after college, so approach college as a training ground for the future.
Join a campus Christian organization. Even the most secular colleges and universities still have campus Christian organizations, although these clubs are often required to meet off campus. No matter where they meet, find one that fits your Christian upbringing and join it. Interacting with like-minded Christians will allow you to recharge your batteries and find the support you need to survive and thrive in an unfriendly environment. Being part of a Christian group will help you deal positively with homesickness, alienation, loneliness, and the feeling of being besieged by professors and students who reject your beliefs.
Join a local church while in college. As soon as you are settled in your dormitory, find a local church to attend. Be a part of the church you choose. Participate in its activities and invite fellow college students to attend with you. Being part of a church while in college will help keep you centered. It will reinforce who you are and what you believe.
Pray constantly. Prayer works. No matter what situation you might face in college, pray will help you face it and overcome it. Pray for yourself and your fellow Christian students, but also pray for student and professors who are lost. No matter how badly they might treat you, pray for them. You never know when God will step in and open their eyes, ears, and hearts.
Let your example do your talking for you. Even professors who are anti-Christian zealots appreciate students who attend class, are punctual, do their homework, and study hard for tests. Be an exemplar of the Christian work ethic, and when you state opinions contrary to the reigning campus orthodoxy, speak the truth in love rather than being argumentative or becoming angry or defensive. Set an example in all situations that shows others the face of Christ.
Stand up to temptation. Campus life is full of temptations that will challenge your faith. When you face temptations to compromise your faith, remember it is Christ not your peers whose approval you need. Remember at all times who you are and what you believe. Seek out fellow Christians on campus and ask them to pray with you and for you. Read Scripture together. Finally, remove yourself from the people and situations that are tempting you.
Never forget that the only real source of truth is the Bible. You are going to be subjected to opinions, theories, and worldviews at odds with everything you believe. You are going to take classes from highly-educated, highly-persuasive professors who purport to know the “truth” about creation, life, and other important topics. As you interact with professors and students who reject God, remember this: education is not wisdom. The world is full of educated fools. Truth is found in God’s Word, not in secular textbooks or the theses, essays, or dissertations of professors whose eyes, ears, and hearts are closed to the truth.
Christians who pursue college degrees from secular institutions often face a rocky road, but then no one ever said the way of Christ would be easy. Remember who you are, what you believe, and the advice from Matthew 10:16 to be both “wise” and “innocent” and you can do more than just survive in college; you can thrive.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com