Low standards are a plague. They are a plague on the home, on society, and most certainly on education and youth culture. Teens, it seems, are expected to be vulgar, boorish, self-centered, monosyllabic slackers whose slogan for life is a bored “Whatever” and whose moral standards are shaped by the narcissism and vacuity of social media. To be counter-cultural in today’s context is to expect children and teenagers to be thoughtful, diligent, enterprising, and polite, and to hold a biblical standard of maturity in their behavior and words. These are aims for the culture at Providence Classical Christian School. A school embodies a culture, and biblical standards that resist the lowball expectations of prevalent youth culture are a hallmark of the classical Christian vision.
Simply put, we are cultivating in students a vision for their lives as disciples who believe with courage, scholars who think with depth, and citizens who serve with compassion. If I had the ear and heart of each of our students and could implant this message in their minds, here is what I would say.
The Apostle Paul encourages Christians to “walk in wisdom [. . .] redeeming the time” (Col 4:5). You are young, and your whole life seems stretched out before you. God has called you to live a full, rich, deep, and joyful life in the light of His grace in Christ. Yet you don’t know what tomorrow holds. Psalm 90 says that “the days of our lives are seventy years; and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” God knows the number of your days, but you do not. Therefore, to redeem the time you have you must live every day as a gift from Him. So what will it mean for you to live a full and fruitful life, and how can you “redeem the time,” as the Apostle Paul urges you to do?
First, you must live with all your might while you do yet live.
Every man’s life is a gift from God; the days we have, whether they are long or short, are in the wise counsel of our Lord. If this year of pandemic has taught you nothing else, let it teach you that our times are not in our hands. Therefore, redeem it while you do yet live. And remember that length is not the value of a life; faithfulness is. St. James wrote, “You do not know what will happen tomorrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapor that appears for a little time and then vanishes away” (4:14). Therefore, think about the end of your life. Envision the final words delivered over you while you lie in the eternal sleep of death. What do you want them to say? What will be your legacy? May the Lord teach you to “number your days that you may apply your heart to wisdom.”
Second, love people.
Nothing makes us more perceptive of time than experiencing the loss of someone we love. Why is it that we cannot value something adequately until we no longer have it? There is a certain realization that comes when you lose someone, or when you know something will be gone. It takes on a new significance. You appreciate things you never appreciated before and love perhaps in ways you have not loved before. Let this teach you to redeem your time with others by learning to see them as instruments in God’s hand, providentially placed in your life to shape you into Christlikeness. Refuse to see people as obstacles or steppingstones. Jesus taught, “Greater love has no one than this than one lay down his life for his friends.” Lay down your life for others. Incarnate the love of Christ by serving, listening, and sacrificing for people. Radically commit yourself to a body of believers and remember that your testimony is displayed more by how you love and less by what you say. And, remember what we read from Cicero, “Make up your minds to this: Virtue (without which friendship is impossible) is first; but next to it, and to it alone, the greatest of all things is Friendship.”
Third, remember to remember.
Even though you cannot package time or stop the world from turning, you can do things to mark time and make life more meaningful. Do not pass too quickly through your seasons of life. Do things you can only do now. Don’t forget about those whom God places in your path to teach and mold you – teachers, pastors, neighbors, grandparents, coaches – and remember what they taught you. Love on your parents and siblings, and tell them that you love them. Remember them when you are away from them. Honor those who have helped you and sacrificed for you. Remember to give thanks to God and honor the Lord’s Day. Stop to examine your life, but always think of your past as a catapult and not a cage. And although you cannot halt the inevitable passage of seconds and minutes, you can stop to remember.
Finally, be heavenly minded so you can do earthly good.
Consider the simple joy of ice cream. When I was a child, my mother used to give my brother and me something called “ice milk.” It was like ice cream but thin and watery; it reminded you of ice cream but left you unsatisfied. Later in life, though, every time I would eat real ice cream, I would say, “Ahhhh” and let it melt in my mouth as I savored its creamy goodness. It was the real thing. Because of the quality of the better thing, I came to a more profound appreciation of it. There is a feeling that we all experience, a feeling of belonging, but mixed with a sense of longing. We know there is something more, but we hang on to what we know.
That sense of, call it, being homesick (that need to be able to find the significance of life), lets you know that this world is not ultimately your home and that your citizenship is in heaven. But know this: without that homesick feeling, you will never do any good on the earth. God has put eternity in your heart and you will not find rest until you find rest in Him. C.S. Lewis put it this way: “If I find in myself a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.”
If your heart is fixed on earthly things, and not heavenly things, you will always be chasing something “better.” Life simply becomes a series of what if’s and disappointments, an endless stream of misty “if only’s” and “just wait until’s” that leave us empty and unsatisfied.
Ultimately you will redeem the time by a holy and passionate commitment to the next world that leaves you hopeful for eternal renewal and vigilant for change now.
So, my young friend, redeem the time God gives you and use it for His glory. Don’t fall in with those around you who live for the moment, for whom the true, the good, and the beautiful are displaced by the selfish, the crude, and the ugly. Make a choice today to live for the One who loved you and gave Himself for you, for His glory.