Influencing Strategic Institutions: Let’s Start with Ourselves
The opinions reflected in this OpEd are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of staff, faculty and students of The King's College.
It’s no secret that The King’s College attracts a very specific type of student. By virtue of its prime location, unparalleled opportunities and bold mission, the school draws young men and women with the drive to put themselves out there, work hard and make a difference—people who want to change the world, or want to “influence strategic institutions.”
But, perhaps in chasing this dream of global impact, we are missing a more rudimentary purpose. In his address to the student body at Fall Retreat, President Tim Gibson said that, “If we want to influence strategic institutions, we have to start with ourselves. We are the first strategic institution that needs to be changed.”
This revelation has weighed heavily on my mind these past few weeks. While we can talk a big game about changing the culture around us and being lights in the world, this is all intrinsically dependent upon our own personal salvation and a thriving relationship with our Savior.
Although the prospect of becoming the next star on Broadway, Ambassador to the United Nations, or editor of The New York Times is alluring, the reality is that most of us are called to live a more humble and unglamorous life in the service of Christ. The Bible says that we are to live out every aspect of our lives to His glory (2 Corinthians 10:31).
Whether we eat or drink, or do anything else, our highest calling is to bring honor and glory to His name, and not our own. This can be a particularly difficult reality to accept for those of us who crave external affirmation and acknowledgement.
Personally, this exact topic is something that God has continually convicted me of in the past few years. What are my motives for doing what I’m doing and would I be doing the same thing if no one was watching? On a minute-by-minute basis, I am constantly confronted by the reality of just how much and how often I allow my desire for affirmation and social standing to overwhelm my desire to serve the Lord with all of my heart, soul, and mind. It’s easy to proclaim our resolve for the gospel with grandiose visions of fame and fortune, but when the rubber meets the road, it’s much more difficult to genuinely reflect Christ in the mundane aspects of life.
We are called to glorify the Lord in the great and the small. Whether we are successful by the conventional standards of the world or not, whether our names and accomplishments achieve national recognition, our purpose remains the same.
One of the biggest presumptions the world holds about Christians is that we are hypocrites, yet we are commanded to be known first and foremost by our love for others. The ways in which we conduct ourselves and relate to the people around us hold tremendous bearing on our individual witness, and the collective reputation of the Church.
It goes without saying that living righteously requires principled approaches to the bigger topics (marital fidelity, alcoholic prudence, fiscal integrity etc.), but just as important are the words and the means by which we relate with our friends. We need to be intentional about pursuing unity and promoting uplifting discourse within our spheres of influence. The subtle effects that gossip, careless sarcasm, and unwholesome chatter can have upon friendships—especially within smaller communities such as ours—are of serious consequence.
Living within the King’s community presents its own additional challenges, however. Because we operate primarily within the confines of a student body that is genuinely seeking Christ, we are compelled daily through our interactions to live a life that is at least outwardly reflective of the gospel.
But this is only one half of the picture. To ensure that we are truly glorifying God with our lives, we must seek to act in accordance with His Word and simultaneously temper our motives for doing so. In a community like King’s that is so uniquely inclined towards righteousness, it is easy to fall into a pattern of doing the right things for the wrong reasons. Philippians 2:3 says that we are to “do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit,” and this is something we must carefully consider especially as we practice outwardly acting selflessly.
Jesus directly addresses this in Matthew 6:1-4 when he tells us not to make our acts of righteousness known to men, but to pray and to give to the needy in secret so that we might avoid ulterior motivations for doing good deeds.
The King’s College offers an ambitious goal to students. Through our intentional location and shared vision, we are called to influence the strategic institutions of the world not just for their own sake, but in the name of Christ.
It is imperative for us to act virtuously in our own lives, and do so in a manner that is not self-serving. In 1 Timothy 4:12, Paul calls us to not let anyone look down on us because of our youth but to instead “set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity.”
Let’s strive to create a school and a culture of genuine love and faith. If we truly want to influence strategic institutions, let’s start with ourselves.