Monday, February 09, 2009

Dominion over the Earth: What should Christian Students do with their Student Loans? Or, being human whilst being a student. Or, being a Christian student.

Christian students are encouraged to live and speak for Jesus. And that's a good thing. The question is - who is this Jesus whom they live and speak for? If it's just the Jesus of popular opinion then we're talking about a very small Jesus. One who is kept out of saying anything about "our sin, our genitals and our thinking" (Richard Dawkins).The alternative is to meet the Christ of Scripture, the real Jesus, the one through whom and for whom all things were made, the one who came into the world to do everything so that a renewed heavens and earth would be offered to us. The real Jesus who rightly stakes his claim on all of his world, and all of our lives. God's son, God's king, who reigns from God's holy hill where his life was poured out for his people...  Discipleship is the outworking of life in relation to that Jesus. In essence it's taking refuge in Jesus (Psalm 2v12) but what would that look like in all of life...

Luke Wood from Life Church Southampton has some really helpful posts on thinking about student debt:

Should students tithe their student loan?
How not to max out your student loan
How not to max out your student loan: take advice
How not to max out your student loan: plan ahead

In view of the comission of humanity in Genesis 1, it seems humanity is relational (and we could speak endlessly about friendship, marriage and the glory of the church...), but is also given dominion, under God, over God's world. Man is given the world to serve and cultivate, a temple in which to worship God.  

David Attenborough speaks in his Charles Darwin and The Tree of Life, stood in front of St. Charles, saying that "we do not have dominion over this world". We forfeitted it, exchanging worship of our creator for worship of his creation, but in The Man, we can return to once more having a true dominion. As Attenborough and Dawkins become more religious in their expositions of The Great Myth of Evolution I can't help but think they're helping Christians to be free to articulate the Great Myth that came true, with warmth, sympathy and engagement... we all want a bigger story...

The domain given to a student is not insubstantial, though it is only a small fraction of the whole creation. Students have dominion over their education (and future employment), over their time (all 168 hours a week), over the community of unbelievers entrusted to them to live and speak amongst, and over finances. Of all people the Christian can hear God's call to stand up and take responsibility. The gospel issues this call. Jesus is Lord over all of life.

Learning to be human in each of these areas is one of the key aspects of what it means to be a Christlike student. To make good use of the education offered. To make those 168 hours a week count. To love the people around them, like a pastor loving his congregation. To be a good steward of the money in your account - much of which is effectively (actually) borrowed from future earnings, and if badly stewarded will be an even heavier weight to carry than it inevitably has to be. To live generously, hospitably, wisely, prudently.

Studentwork (whether in the local church or in church-loving parachurch) has got to engage with helping to equip Christian students to live gospel-centredly in these areas (offering similar helps to non-Christian students wouldn't be a bad idea either! - though no-one can ultimately regain their humanity without the gospel of Jesus Christ). And Christian youthwork could do student workers massive favours by covering some of this too - let's help teenagers to lead, and that doesn't just mean leading bible study or organising stuff 'in church' - but leading in all of life too. This is more than just "life-skills" it's about a wider reaching, more distinctive Christianity. Taught as the implications of the gospel, rather than imperatives for acceptability, this is about seeing a generation rise who eat, work, play and sleep Christianly.