About 18 months ago I asked a high school student to come to my office so that he could clarify some of his comments in the student survey. One in particular stood out to me. He said that he felt some teachers were shying away from the difficult questions in life and were almost apologizing for some of the Christian beliefs that non-Christians find as offensive. He tapped the top of my cabinet and said, “I’m not a Christian, so I don’t believe this stuff. But if I were, then I would believe ALL of it, and I would not apologize for it.” His words challenged me. Is that what we tend to do? Refrain from saying what we truly believe so that we don’t upset someone? Or do we go even further and apologize for what God has revealed as true? That’s a pretty profound observation, in my opinion.
In today’s culture, holding to the belief that there is absolute truth brings the label of unaccepting, intolerant, prejudiced or even that of being a bigot. That’s hard to hear, especially when Jesus has instructed us to love our enemies and to do good to those who persecute us. But there are certain core doctrines in the Bible that are non-negotiables. The first is that God’s Word is “the fully inspired, infallible, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God” (ICSV Doctrinal Statement). So, just as this student was pointing out, if I say that I am a Christian, then I need to believe that what the Bible says is true. I can’t pick and choose what I like about it.
A couple of weeks ago, we again surveyed our high school students to find out their views on some pretty sensitive topics – things like identity and sexuality. We were not overly surprised with their responses, as the students’ views differ as much as they do in any diverse group of people. One of the questions was a real encouragement. When asked if it is possible for people who disagree on these issues to still have good friendships and to be able to work together, 88% said that it is possible.
In today’s world where people are so unaccepting of those with differing views, our students are learning what it is like to live in an extremely diverse community and still get along. It is possible to discuss certain issues because they are not really “issues” at all. They are relationships. They are feelings. They are people who are loved by God, created in His image. Does this mean that we tiptoe around the hot topics? Not at all. It means that we can believe in absolutes and we can believe in the Bible as God’s inerrant Word of God and still love and respect those who don’t. Sprinkle said in his blog called “Grace Unleashed” that “grace is God’s aggressive pursuit of, and stubborn delight in, messed up people. And since we’re all messed up, we are all equally in desperate need of God’s grace.” That’s how we can get along. We can grow in our understanding of grace and in the way that we extend that grace to others.
So, am I saying that everyone is right? That everything is relative? No, not at all. I firmly believe that God’s Word is the absolute truth, and I want nothing more than for others to believe that, as well. What saddens me is the way that many people are going about making their point. They are not speaking in love. They seem more concerned with winning the argument than with winning the soul. Chuck Swindoll has said that “this is no time for a deliberate softening of truth, to make Christianity more palatable to unbelievers” (2002). With all of the pressure today to be culturally-sensitive and politically-correct, I think that is what many Christians believe they have to do – soften the truth. At ICSV we believe that we can discuss sensitive topics, that we can explain what God’s Word says about those topics, and that we can honestly love those who hold to different views. We are not called to change people’s minds. We are called to be faithful to the God who has saved us. We are called to speak truth into their lives. But, above all, we are called to demonstrate God’s profound love by speaking the truth in love. It is my prayer that our students will remember their time at ICSV as one where they were challenged to ask questions, “to engage with issues and ideas,…to seek and evaluate different points of view,… and to be willing to grow from the experience” (IB Learner Profile). But even more than that, I hope that they will remember ICSV as a place where they were loved and respected as valued image-bearers of the Almighty God.
Because of His Faithfulness,
Sharon Brobst, Director