Faith

Jethani challenges students to change their views

As part of Spiritual Emphasis Weeks, chapel speaker Skye Jethani challenged students to change their view of the world.

Jethani commented on the hymn, Amazing Grace: “What does it mean? ‘I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see’If we view the world the way Jesus sees the world, then we’ll be empowered to act within the world the way he would act. But if we don’t see the world the way he sees it, no amount of resources, no amount of motivation will make the difference.”

Skye Jethani is “an award-winning author, speaker, consultant and ordained pastor” who has worked with organizations including Christianity Today, The White House Office of Faith Based and Neighborhood Partnerships, and the Interfaith Youth Core, according to his website, SkyeJethani.com.

For the past eight years, Eliza Newkirk, senior intercultural studies major, has heard Jethani speak at the Okoboji Lakes Bible and Missionary Conference in Arnolds Park, Iowa. She was thrilled when she heard that Jethani was a fall semester chapel speaker. “Every time I’ve heard him speak, he challenges his audience. It’s not just a feel-good thing or even just a practical takeaway thing. He always speaks in such a way to cause his audience to really think about what he’s saying, which is really cool. That’s pretty rare in American Christianity today,” Newkirk said.

Jethani came from a diverse home with a father from India who rarely attended church and an American mother who tried to raise him and his brother in a Christian home. “Some people start asking. . .more meaningfully when they’re college students, when they’re out of their home. What do I think? What do I believe? Is it the same as my parents? I didn’t have the luxury of believing the same thing my parents did because they didn’t, so I started asking those questions a lot more in high school and reading broadly and studying different religious traditions,” Jethani said. “I found myself really drawn to and attracted to the teachings of Jesus and the gospel and recognizing this was fundamentally different from everything else I was encountering.”

Speaking to college students wrestling with those questions, Jethani notices a heart intent on justice in a broken world. “That’s a wonderful quality and I don’t want in any way to diminish that. The danger in it is that they begin to connect their own value to their ability to change the world,” Jethani said. “What I want them to walk away with is an understanding that they are inherently valuable to God, regardless of their impact and that their first calling is primarily to a deep relationship with him, out of which then flows his calling on their lives and their impact in the world and what they do.”

“This is kind of paradoxical, but if you really care about changing the world and social justice, stop caring so much about changing the world and social justice. Care more about your communion with God and what he’s calling you to do, and he will give you the grace and the strength to do what he’s asking you to do, whatever the outcome,” Jethani said.

The biggest takeaway, Newkirk said, was the importance of experiencing God’s presence. “There is something about just learning to enjoy God as our God, to just worship and glorify him in whatever vocation or field we’re doing because he’s God and he’s worthy of that,” Newkirk said. “Not because he needs it in order to use us or he needs us in order to change the world because ultimately, he doesn’t. He created it. He can do what he wants. Just finding the beauty in enjoying God because he’s God, because he created us, and because he loves us.”