Please don’t think what follows is a foolish suggestion to disregard the Biblical mandate to “guard your heart,” as found within the context of Proverbs 4. Generally, the Proverbs (and the Bible as a whole) are excellent sources of wisdom for Christians and non-Christians alike. Also, if you’re in the non-Christian “minority” on campus, what follows might be a breath of fresh air.
Let’s be honest about the lifestyles of most John Brown University students: you bend or break the covenant every once in a while, but you follow its guiding principles. You might think the policies on tobacco use or chapel attendance are strict, but you understand why an institution like JBU might enforce them. You probably attend church Sunday mornings and even participate in a campus outreach event or ministry if you’re really hankering to burst the JBU Bubble a bit.
But that’s the whole problem: the Bubble exists, and you’re floating around in it. To get outside of it, you have to try. And outside of that Bubble is the real world full of drag queens and beer pong and orgies and Xanax addicts and f-bombs and nihilism—edgy people and places and things and ideas you only know about through television screens and sermon slides.
When I use the word “evangelism,” I always do a gut check. “Evangelism” almost always isn’t the Bible-thumping, clumsy street-corner solo shouting match many associate. And I think the magic of evangelism—of sharing good news—is much deeper and more exciting and risky than most JBU students realize.
The logical thing to do during a college stint at John Brown is to attend the study groups, to go to class and chapel and church, to not sleep around or drink or smoke or whatever. Bright-eyed and bushy-tailed freshman that I was, I remember entering college with a litany of “do not’s” in my head—largely based on the fear that doing the “bad things” or hanging out with the “bad people” would tarnish my reputation or soul.
But to have this mindset is to miss what “evangelism” is altogether because it separates you from the very people to whom you are called to witness. Those “others” cannot—and oftentimes do not want to—relate to you because to them you are a squeaky clean Christian who doesn’t laugh at their dirty jokes or drink their alcohol. Many have heard (versions of) the gospel so many times, they’re inoculated to it or jaded by it. They see the hypocrisy and have chosen to reject it.
But why do they reject it unless it’s because, truly, they never experienced the love of Christ that was promised to them? A love of Christ that hangs out with sinners—that goes to drag night at C4 and chats with the queens, who learns beer pong and clobbers the competition, who breaks all the rules that only keep us within our own sanctimonious, sanitized gardens? The world and its people are messy.
Now, let me do damage control: I am not encouraging drunkenness or revelry or getting yourself into obviously dangerous or sinful situations. But I am encouraging you to introduce yourself to the people who do—because such were some of us. I am encouraging you to be in the world, conscious all-the-while of their sin, of your sin, and of the love that’s been poured into you so you can pour it into others. I am encouraging you to leap into the unknown with no knowing where you’ll end up, because when you’re in God’s hands, you don’t need to be afraid of being unsafe; there is nowhere safer as when you’re out taking risks and loving people as they are.