By Molly Lackey
O LORD God dear Father in heaven, fix the eyes of sinners on Your Son’s cross, where He paid the debt for our sin and granted us a place to hope for mercy, through Jesus Christ, Your Son, our Lord, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.
College years are a challenging time for us Lutheran students–perhaps one of the most challenging periods in our earthly lives. While these years are meant to be a time of growth, learning, and service to our neighbor, most university campuses have a very different worldview from the one we hear preached in church. Campus life has a lot in common with the craziness of the ancient pagan world, and both have the same motto: “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” This philosophy has been preached everywhere from the Coliseum to your dorm room, and it says that the most important thing is to do what makes you feel good. Life’s short, so just have fun! Pick any commandment–third, fourth, sixth, eighth–and break it because it’ll make you feel good.
What’s wrong with feeling good?
So our professors tell us God is dead, classmates tell us to ditch church, and friends tell us that honoring our parents is lame. Everybody cheats, gossips, says this, does that. And if we don’t join in with them, we’re losers. Maybe we follow them in search of pleasure. Maybe we hide our faith to avoid looking uncool. Maybe we harbor hatred in our hearts for them to make us feel better about ourselves. We’ll do anything just to get that grade, that guy or girl, that financial aid. We’ll do anything to feel good.
None of it works
We end up overwhelmed with homework, stress, loneliness, and temptation. In the midst of the sadness, fear, and sin, we eventually find ourselves flat on our faces, realizing we can’t do it. We can’t meet our own standards for “feeling good”, let alone God’s perfect standards for how we ought to live. We discover that the campus motto is actually the world’s lie. When Satan tempted Eve, he told her that the fruit would make her feel good–it would make her be like God. In following the promises of the world, we end up rejecting God and replacing Him with our own desires. Just like Adam and Eve, we look upon ourselves with shame and try to cover our nakedness, but we can’t. Who can free us from this weakness and sin?
Jesus can free us
Christ Jesus died for everyone, including college students. The very Son of God took on our frail human flesh and bore all of our sins and burdens. He felt the suffering we feel daily as we struggle with pain and temptation on campus. Christ knows our sins, and out of supreme love, took those sins onto Himself to save us. Hanging on the Cross, the sinless God in the flesh died the death we deserve, atoning for all the sins we commit, and did so also for our siblings, parents, friends, and professors. And on the third day, Christ rose to give us salvation and eternal life. And as we died with Him, on the Last Day we will also rise with Him–all our sin taken from us–to live in eternal blessedness and peace with Him and the Church Triumphant.
What about all that stress and sin?
What about those friends and professors? What about right now? In the midst of college craziness and our own brokenness, we are given the Sacraments, where Christ comes to us physically, in our own time and place, to bring us comfort and forgiveness. In Baptism, through water and the Word, Jesus takes our sin and clothes us with His righteousness. In the Absolution, our pastors declare that Jesus forgives our sins, even those that plague us most in our college years. In the Lord’s Supper, Christ Jesus gives us His very Body and Blood with the bread and wine to forgive our sins and grant us everlasting life.
College is hard but you are in Christ
The devil, the world, and our own sinful flesh are constantly warring against us, leading us to death and ruin. But whether we’re heading off to our freshman year or preparing to graduate, we college students can dare to be Lutheran, knowing that no matter who makes fun of us, no matter what grades we make, no matter how worried or lonely we feel, no matter how much we continue to stumble, none of that can harm us, because we are in Christ. In Word and Sacrament, Jesus Christ cleanses us from sins and gives us salvation. When temptation comes, when despair strikes, when we fall into sin, we can come again and again to the altar. Jesus takes the motto of the world and flips it on its head: “Eat, drink, and be forgiven,” He says as our pastor hands us the host and the cup, “for on Good Friday I died–for you!”
Oh, how blest it is to know: Were as scarlet my transgression, It shall be as white as snow By Thy blood and bitter passion; For these words I now believe: Jesus sinners doth receive. (“Jesus Sinners Doth Receive” LSB 609:5)
Molly Lackey is a wife, author, and church historian. She has a bachelor of arts degree in history, German, and Latin from the University of Alabama and a master of arts in early modern European history from Saint Louis University. She enjoys reading and discussing theology with other laypeople, creating art, and drinking tea with her husband.
This article was originally published in the summer 2017 issue of Higher Things Magazine, back in Molly’s CCV days with HT.