And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
Real education, if you are open to it, gives you exactly this vision: Jesus, the Word of God, the personal operating system of creation, is known to you. Seeing Jesus will continually give you a vision of grace and truth . . . the two necessary elements to live successfully.
A Christian education attempts to make this reality plain and easier to see.
Of course, many non-Christians receive a real education, because God loves all His children. There is a common grace and an Image of God in each person. Jesus Christ as a person is so basic to any true understanding of reality that glimpses can come through His creation, through great texts, or through any great works of art.
In fact, a gifted pagan intent on seeing God can often learn more than a lazy Christian who takes his advantages for granted. This moocher on a parent’s or teacher’s wisdom cannot long operate in a broken world. He will find pain, because pain is necessary for growing up, but be unable to process that pain, because he lacks grace and truth.
As a man or woman you must never hide from the truth. You must seek it out, because without truth you will accomplish nothing. This is as basic as knowing the facts of science and separating them from the wishes of the scientists or the propagandists.
Failing to know the difference between fiction and reality is devastating. Of course, fictional literature can contain truth, but knowing where the story begins and the truth ends is a necessary part of sanity.
Too many of us tell ourselves stories, some negative and full of pain, that are deeply false and bring only hurt. God sends growing pains, but devils torment with fantastic illusions of failure.
Truth will tell you the difference.
Truth cannot be escaped by our wishes or our desires. Of course, having wishes and desires is a truth about us that we have to acknowledge. But as Oedipus discovered learning the truth about yourself is as likely to kill you as set you free unless you are abiding in Jesus.
It is an arrogance of our own time that we do not see the horror of truth, just the promise. To escape the pain caused by sin, the broken cosmic order, requires grace. Grace is common to all men or like Oedipus would gouge out our eyes at any glimpse of the truth.
You need grace. I need grace.
Grace is the unmerited favor of God to us, but it is also the note in the cosmic dance that ornaments it. Grace turns bare necessity, plain melody, into a thing of beauty. You are as you, that is the truth and melody of your life, but grace transforms the off-key elements into ornamentation, crush notes, grace notes, and makes life beautiful.
Abiding in Jesus presents us with truth and grace as tools to make life not just bearable, but full of rich possibilities for joy. Students at this school are, or should be, uniquely prepared to create and thrive.
As the first graduating class of your high school’s history, you are not like most graduates, though in other ways you are exactly like any graduates. This is a situation I understand, because I was part of the first graduating class of eight students (!) at my alma mater.
The advantage of being first is that you received intense attention and the best a dedicated team could give you. They dreamed of education and gave all they had to make it possible. Your debt to them is enormous and it is an oddity of our time that graduations fail to focus on the workers and instead doubly reward those who have for years received the benefit.
Gratitude on your part is appropriate, but your teachers are so happy for you that it is easy to feel special in a wrong way. Commencement addresses often make this worse avoiding the truth about the world. As speakers we pretend you are special, not by position or by the gifts given to you, but because you are some unique generation born, like prince or princess, to special status.
This is not your fault, it is ours, but it can harm you.
You are loved, but the love is grace not based on works. You have yet to do anything great and it is not necessary that you do so. The world does not depend on you or your deeds. You might do things that get you into Wikipedia, but probably not.
Jesus wants you to know the truth and live in grace: real human flourishing or happiness.
Sometimes we, parents and teachers, want you to live a check-list of success that we have in our minds. Avoid this. Our check-list might contain things it would be prudent for you to do, including going to a good college, but happiness can never come from doing things apart from a connection to people, self-knowledge, and vision of Jesus that brings all things together.
Dream as you will, great dreams, but allow the truth to temper those dreams and God to give you grace to make even your failures beautiful. He can and He will.
Finally, after all the years of planning for graduation, there is something anticlimactic about it. Is that all? Twelve years and some cake? Is this diploma worth all those nights of study and Latin?
The diploma is not, of course. And the party can never be as long as the labor, because it is merely an outer sign of the inner truth and grace that should be the feast of knowledge within you. If it is there, then the party will continue for years, slowly unfolding, and filling you with visions of goodness, truth, and beauty. If it is not there, all the credentials and gifts that this school or your parents can provide are not enough.
I believe you have found a true vision, a gift from God using your parents and teachers. I believe that personal relationship with Jesus produces in a man or woman great art, true science, and a passion for wisdom.
Jesus is good, true, and beautiful and love for Him will make a man or woman wish to be like Him and produce beauty as He produced beauty. Celebrate graduates, be thankful to your parents and teachers, but also look forward to the joy that is surely coming to you if you walk empowered by love guided by grace and truth to the sublime Beauty that moves the Heavens and the furthest stars.