Esse quam videri. To be rather than to seem. That is the motto of the Christian university that I attended in the 1990’s. When I first heard those words I was, essentially, unimpressed. It sounded good, but it also sounded a bit unrealistic to me. I knew many “seeming” kind of Christians in my life and could not be easily fooled. Most of my life I had sought to “seem” like I had things together, was on a good path, and was honoring God with my life. “Being” something real was not on my radar. “Seeming” seemed to be good enough to me. How could I really and truly change something from bad to good- something shamefully sinful into something surprisingly hopeful? I would discover over the next four (24) years that while it was an impossible thing for me to ever achieve, I was not on the hook to do the transforming work from seeming to being – Christ was and is. If my life was to be something good, He would have to do it because it was obvious that I couldn’t. Thankfully, He has done it over and over again.
Even after all these years, I am challenged to be something for God and not seem like something for anybody else to admire. The Christian life is not about ceremony, certification, or circumstance, but about union with Christ to make our lives beautiful and blessed. Christ alone is my Savior and my Lord. Christ alone is my Advocate and the Activator of Salvation for me and in me. I am thankful for God’s grace that continues to help me see and pursue “being” a Christian in a culture that is content to live selfishly as it is confused by the witness of “seeming” Christians.
Christian “being” is about belonging to both Christ and the church as a witness of faith and identity in the world. Christian “being” is about becoming a new creature in Christ who transforms into a mature creature through Christian formation and action. Christian “being” is about blessing the world as a kingdom builder who points to the Christ who has come to redeem and renew creation. Christian “being” is about breaking the cycle of injustice and power in the world as a witness to the reign of God who calls us to live in faith, hope, and love.
Philippians 4:8-9 is a key verse for me as I grow up in the grace of God and “become” who He had in mind. It reminds me to pursue those things that are so different from my nature that only God could be credited for their appearance in me. It also reminds me that many others have invested the true and real things of Christ in me so that I might be gripped by their truth and live a life free and whole. It points me do everything rejoicing in the Lord because he is the Source of all happiness, all security, all help, all peace.
I believe in Christian higher education. Not because the diploma means more in society, but because the culture of a Christian university can nurture the mind and spirit of a student into the whole being God created us to become. God has called everyone to become something different than we pretend or seem to be. My life was forever changed by the climate of a Christian community that was authentic in its confession and deliberate in the way it articulated faith to an emerging generation. By the grace of God I will pursue this calling the rest of my living days and shepherd others to follow me as I am following Christ.
In the fall of 2018, Jamie and I will be shepherding our firstborn off to college. We have cast a vision for higher education, saved aggressively for tuition and books, and nurtured him to prepare for a career serving others. He will no doubt go to college, but where? He has the grades and the financial backing to go just about anywhere he wants to go. He will have the blessing and the support of his family to make a daring choice that will position him to have the best educational experience possible. If he asks me, I will tell him that not all colleges are created equal. Many will “seem” like a good option for him, with their programs, buildings, and high profile reputations. However, “seeming” like the place is not what we are looking for in a college. We are seeking -praying – that he (and the other two) not only take our money and support and go off to college, but that they follow the path that we took to a college that will help him “be” the man that God created him to be. Few colleges have the capacity to help him get there. Jamie and I will tell him about one in particular that we know and love.