As a Christian student on my college campus, I’ve experienced ridicule, threats, and ostracization. Unfortunately, this isn’t out of the ordinary for students who speak up for Christ.
Taking lives in the womb, abandoning God’s design for sex and marriage, and denying God’s image reflected in male and female are enthusiastically endorsed by secular college campuses across the country. Many universities teach LGBTQ tenets as fact and shame into silence those who disagree. (Here is what freshman orientation looks like on my campus.)
Six Ways to Resist
It’s possible, even probable, that new laws will stifle religious freedom and speech further in the future. As American culture and campuses grow less tolerant of our beliefs, it’s important for parents to help young Christians prepare to be faithful in the face of censorship and hostility.
Here are six ways you can do that.
1. Teach your teens the importance of truth.
Whether we are sharing the gospel or standing up for justice in the world, Christians are always engaged in spiritual warfare. We don’t wrestle against flesh and blood; the spiritual forces of evil are against us. In response, the apostle Paul tells us to “take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm” (Eph. 6:13).
The first piece of that armor is the “belt of truth.” As my pastor noted in a sermon last year, Paul intentionally distinguishes the belt of truth from the sword of the Spirit (the Word of God). God encourages us to seek truth in the world he has created alongside the truth revealed by the Bible. Even if, in some cases, forms or methods of seeking justice are not explicitly revealed in the Bible, it is good for Christians to use our God-given mind and emotions to determine what is true and right.
Truth is important to God, and therefore should be important to us.
God has an interest in his creation being represented rightly. Christians are called to be a beacon of true representation in this dark and distorted world. If we don’t understand this, then we won’t set the truth above our desires for acceptance and comfort. Truth is important to God, and therefore should be important to us.
2. Engage seriously with differing views.
Proverbs 18:17 wisely says, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” As I grew up, my family spent time each evening discussing a passage of the Bible or a book on a contemporary cultural issue.
As pastor’s kids, we often knew the answers to tough questions, but we didn’t always put much thought into them. So, my dad would take the Proverbs 18:17 approach and “examine” us by asking deeper questions or posing a different view. He would anticipate non-Christian “objections” to Christian truths and ask us to explain where they fell short.
Being exposed to Christianity’s difficult questions, in an environment in which my godly parents could lead me to the truth, was one of the greatest blessings of my childhood. By the time I moved onto a secular college campus, I had already heard most of the challenges to Christianity I soon encountered.
By the time I moved onto a secular college campus, I had already heard most of the challenges to Christianity I soon encountered.
Sadly, I’ve had multiple friends drift away from the faith because of the enticement of worldly philosophies. Kids who leave Christian families in which non-Christian views are never discussed are often leaving something they don’t truly understand. It’s vital that parents help build a foundation of deep understanding for their teens, rather than leaving their minds and hearts open to the deception of the world.
3. Model the love, humility, and compassion of Christ.
As much as God values truth, he also values the way Christians reveal those truths. As spiritual and ideological minorities, young Christians can easily become embittered by the hostility around us. But Christians have been bought by the priceless blood of Christ. Knowing the lengths to which Jesus suffered to atone for us, we of all people should be the most willing to show grace and kindness to other sinners.
As spiritual and ideological minorities, young Christians can easily become embittered by the hostility around us.
As people bought by the blood of the Lamb, we should be quick to recognize God’s image in the most difficult and even evil human beings. Rather than gloating and triumphalism, we should demonstrate genuine love and compassion toward all people, even when they mock and revile us.
Jesus, the indescribably powerful divine King, was dressed in a fake robe and crown and ridiculed. He was whipped and beaten. Yet he humbled himself to an unimaginable degree, even to death on a cross. Any self-righteousness or pride that we Christians feel toward those who oppose the truth is misplaced.
4. Show teens the importance of the church.
I never would have made it through the past three years without my church. At my school of just over 5,000 students, there are very few Christians—and all of them are just as young, inexperienced, and confused as I am.
Being part of a healthy church has given me a home of believers with whom I can confide, cry, rejoice, and worship God. The spiritual lessons I’ve learned from people in their mid-20s, young families, empty-nesters, and retired seniors have been more important than anything I’ve learned at school. Older Christians can understand and encourage college students because they’ve faced the same struggles and seen God’s faithfulness.
As I grew up, my family’s life was centered on the church. My parents devoted themselves to a congregation of different kinds of people all unified in Christ. It was clear to me as a kid that the church is a vital part of the Christian life. Commitment to a church provides roots of support and accountability for fledgling Christians like me, and those roots are vital in sustaining faith in Christ. Give high priority to the church for the sake of your children.
5. Pray for and with your teens.
More than anything, young Christians in hostile environments need prayer. I’ve failed to represent Christ in enough situations to assure me that instances of compassionate boldness come completely from the Holy Spirit. We need him to work, and we ask him to work through prayer.
More than anything, young Christians in hostile environments need prayer.
In Psalm 73, Asaph expresses weariness in trying to understand why he struggles while the wicked thrive, a scenario familiar to Christian students. The turning point of the psalm occurs when he approaches God with his grievances (vv. 16–17) and recognizes God’s sovereignty and his frailty (vv. 21–22).
As with Asaph, God does not leave Christians in our bitterness and pain. He gently and mercifully leads us back to himself: “Nevertheless, I am continually with you; you hold my right hand. . . . My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever” (vv. 23, 26).
Parents can model the prayer of Asaph in response to the struggles of their teens. They can turn with their children to seek the face of God in prayer, demonstrating a Christian life that responds to suffering by casting our anxieties on God.
6. Keep the gospel central.
Especially in a culture as divided as ours, advocacy for crucial things such as racial justice or the pro-life cause can morph into a kind of works-righteousness that instills guilt rather than grace. As broken sinners, we are always looking for a way to earn salvation rather than accept it as a free gift from God.
Young Christians need to know that our identities are finally in Christ, not in advocating for any cultural issue, no matter how important or biblical.
Nothing compares to our rescue through Jesus. He offers salvation to all who repent of their sin and entrust him with their lives, and this is the greatest message we can share. We speak up against what grieves God because of our love for Jesus, and our trust in him is how we suffer through the consequences, knowing that our reward in heaven is greater than any temporary success here on earth.