NOTE: “Leadership Reflections” shares views of the different members of the University Leadership Council on matters related to campus life and the operations of the University. As well, it features opinions on issues of national and/or international relevance.
By Rev. Bernadette A. Morales, Pastor for Christian Education
I will never forget that sobering scenario in Silliman last January 18, 2011. It was one of those evenings. People were trying to settle down from all the Christmas and New Year rush, while trying to pace themselves with recent events that had happened in the community. Inside the main sanctuary of SU Church were the remains of Mrs. Filomena T. Cang, a prominent and well-respected woman whose life and faith have made such a strong impact in the Silliman community and beyond. She died at the ripe old age of 81 years old – accomplished and successful in every way. A stone’s throw away, inside the SU Udarbe Memory Chapel, right beside the Main sanctuary, were the remains of a 3rd year female college student who took her own life a day earlier. Her lifeless body was found under the staircase of her dormitory off campus. She hanged herself with her own blanket apparently because of some personal problems which had become too much for her to bear.
The SU Church Pastors led necrological services that evening , one after another. The atmosphere in the two services were strikingly different —thanksgiving and celebration on one hand; and shock and disbelief on the other. One life lived to its fullest. Another life snatched away quite abruptly. In both situations, however, one cannot help but ponder on the complex and multi-faceted issues of life – – – and the simple realizations that continue to invite us to acknowledge our need for what is truly meaningful and eternally significant. Such is what I would consider one of the greatest challenges faced by Christian Education today, especially in this month of September that we are celebrating Christian Education month at SU Church. How can the pursuit of Christian education help individuals find meaning and purpose in the vastness of life-experiences and situations – – – – in the midst of life and death – – – – in the face of joy and confusion? How can Christian education somehow help us appreciate along our life’s journey that it is in Christ, and in knowing him that we find out who we really are and what we are truly living for.
Certainly, there are fancy ways to define Christian Education. But in the end, Jesus reveals to us the very heart of it when he called his first disciple by the Sea of Galilee one day. Without too much words and lengthy explanations, he tells them, “Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” (Matthew 4:19) But then, following Christ can mean many things, especially in these very diverse times. It can even become too abstract if not fully defined. So we come face to face with another choice – – – whether to define things according to our terms or to accept God’s Word as the very foundation and core of what it means to follow Christ.
In the book “Can Man Live Without God?” by Ravi Zacharias he wrote that in 1960, 65% Americans believe the Bible to be true. Some 35 years later, it dropped to 35%. Of the 35% who believed in the Bible, 70% of the 35% are not fully convinced that there are moral absolutes.[i] Christian author and educator Harold Sala, commenting on this said, “Within barely a generation, we have moved from a position of clearly defined moral truths to one of moral relativism and uncertainty.”
Many are convinced that the greatest casualties of this very ambiguous state of morality in the world today are no less than the children and the youth of today. They are living in the midst of a world that is confused – – – a world that cannot draw hard and clear lines between what is wrong and what is right – – – a world that refuses to call sin, sin and truth, truth – — a world that continues to deny the absolute reign of God and His Word. This is the passion burning in Apostle Paul’s heart when he said to Timothy, “Preach the Word.” (2 Timothy 2:2) Proclaim it. Live it. Defend it. Secure it. As prophesied by Paul, the time of deception has truly come.
It is very evident that we are living in a world that refuses to respect and accept the reality of an absolute truth. Instead, to suit a misguided sense of inclusivism and a distorted view of freedom, the world has upheld self-serving rules and human philosophies that have led us all farther and farther away from the Lord. A professor in classical studies in Wellesley College commented, “The notion that there are many truths might seem to be well suited to a diverse society. But when everyone is free to define truth, the result is an intellectual and moral shouting match in which the people with the loudest voices are most likely to be heard.” All of us are caught in the middle of this confusing shouting match. In almost all facets of human life and society, we hear contradicting voices. We are caught between conflicting opinions that require us to choose and decide. The balance is delicate, and requires much discernment. If you go one side of the spectrum of truth, you are called arrogant, haughty, self-righteous and narrow-minded. If you go the other side, you are labeled a coward, one who is afraid to make a stand, one whose preoccupation is preserving the self, and satisfying the status-quo. In the face of these seeming contradictions, Jesus calls us to become his disciples and to follow him.
The word disciple comes from the Greek work “mathetes” and it means learner or student. Jesus summarizes the concept of discipleship when he said, “Come follow me.” Before we go technical again, let us remember, especially as a Christian institution of higher learning, that the bottom line is relationship. Following Christ is about relationship. It is coming to a personal knowledge of Christ, and going deep into that relationship enough to be changed and transformed along the way. It is also about allowing that relationship to have so much importance in our lives – – important enough to change the trajectory of our lives – – – and important enough to make us realize that without that relationship, life is utterly pointless – – – and everything that we die for will be in vain.
[i] “Can Man Live Without God” – Ravi Zacharias, W Publishing Group, Nashville, 1994