One of the most confusing clichés in the Christian community on the university campus is that the Christian student is a full-time Christian and a part-time student. This phrase has eaten so much into the fabric of Christian culture on the campus such that if you are found in contradiction of it you are considered the Judas of the brethren. You are ostracized by your own and made to feel that you have fallen short of the glory of God. Your offense; you concentrate too much on being a student relative to being a Christian.
The benchmark for determining a good Christian on the university campus can best be described as beguiling. The criteria include activities students engage in at the cost of academic work. Staunch Christian students are those who consider curricular activities as secular and ‘unspiritual’. To them, there is a higher calling beyond sitting through lectures, attending seminars, going to laboratories, and reading books. Anything academic, as far as they are concerned, inhibits good Christian living. Students who live like this are hailed and celebrated. They are considered martyrs and reformists!
The response to this situation has usually come down to balance; living a balanced Christian student life. In trying to help you untie this Gordian knot, you are taught to separate your Christian life from your student life, put each on a balance, and make sure that the weight on both ends of the balance are equal. You come to understand that balance means giving Caesar (the university) his due and giving God too His – making sure these two aspects of your life are satisfied and there is no conflict of interest in your allegiance to both of them. This approach in itself is problematic. It creates two masters – your education and your faith – who clamor for attention in your life. The Bible, however, in Matthew 6:24 tells us by that it is impossible to serve two masters as you cannot please both of them at the same time.
Know that life is one! It is not, and should not be, lived in fragmented bits. You are a Christian and being a student is a subset of your complete identity. Your student life is hidden and found in your Christian life. Attempting to separate the two ends you up in a chaotic life. The most unfortunate part is that both your academics and faith, which you so much value, will crumble as a result of the separation.
The root – cause and solution – of this unfortunate phenomenon is in the definition of a Christian student. It must be understood that being a student is an extraordinary gift. It is a calling – just as much as being a Christian also is. As a matter of fact, the entirety of a Christian’s life, every part of it, is a calling. The years spent as an undergraduate, like every other time in a Christian’s life, be it as a worker, a married person, or a minister of God, are not yours to do with as you please. They are Christ’s!
If you see your life as a student as a calling and a gift, it puts everything in a better perspective. It makes you seek the will of God about your academic life and clears every misconception of education being antagonistic to your spiritual life. You then find what the best practices for a Christian student are and follow in them.
You are a Christian, a disciple of Christ – one that has been called to be a student and has been entrusted with a valuable four-year student life. Be a good steward, knowing that you will be accountable for how you spent your undergraduate life.
As I wrote this piece, I felt the need to get an first-hand experience for my cherished readers. Thankfully, my good friend whom I completed the University of Cape Coast with decided to share his experience. Here’s what he has to say about The Christian Student Life.
“Being a Christian and a student back in the University was a bit of a challenge for me (and I know you’d be wondering why it had to be). In the University, I found myself involved in an internal conflict. My wish to be a good student academically was competing with my wish to be a “good Christian.”
Why I had to get to this point is what I feel is worth sharing. When I first got to campus, I joined a number of Christian groups to have a place to build and grow my spiritual life. Back there, the kind of orientation I had from the “senior” brethren was, for me, a little worrying. We were told that in the school, what we needed to “survive” and complete our programs was God, and that meant more time spent in prayer, fellowship meetings and hanging with the brethren.
We were told several times that we don’t have to “worry our heads” about our books because it isn’t the class we graduate from school with that will make us succeed out there in world. This was particularly difficult for me, if not confusing. I had always thought that the primary aim for me in school was to study, but it turned out that wasn’t the case among the brethren on campus.
The worrying part is that we had to toe this line so not to be tagged as “unspiritual” and people who don’t love the things of God. It was considered “spiritual,” if one missed a lecture and/or quiz to attend some fellowship meeting of a sort. Prioritizing lectures and quizzes over “church” was crazy. You had to check your commitment to God if you did that.
It took me until third year to realize that what I’ve been told from first year about being a full-time Christian and a part-time student was an absolute lie. I spent the better part of four semesters trying to get a supposed balance to my academics and my spiritual life. I wondered why I had to be trying to find a balance when I could just make both important aspects of my life. I wondered why I had to make my wish to chase after God compete with my wish to study and be an excellent student.
Then I realized that I had to take both equally important. God needed all of me and my time, and so did my academic work. I never looked back after that. I gave my academic work all the time and energy I could find, because that was primarily my reason for being in school. I equally did my best to be the Christian I am, and I stopped measuring my spirituality against what brethren in Christian community considered as spiritual enough.
It took a long time to come to that realization, but I’m glad I did”.