Yesterday I saw some graffiti under a bridge in Fergus Falls. I paused for a minute, feeling an attraction to it. The graffiti read "Respect Existence or Expect Resistance." Sticking my chest out a few inches and clinching my fist, I dropped my head. My fight for existence isn't with man, my battle for equality is with God.
Recent race-laced riots have left communities in mourning. Some mourn the loss of history, others mourn the loss of life. The battle seems to be a fight for equality, and for what the Fergus Falls tagger calls respect for existence. The lack of respect is real, and oftentimes palpable. In my response I realize that the battle for equality is a war waged in my heart, and likely the heart in all of humankind. While we think we battle flesh and blood, our true fight for equality is with God.
Most of us live lives where simply existing is the ultimate goal. We want to be able to eat, work, play, and procreate, all on our time. When we are in control we feel like things go better. When things don't go our way we can sometimes create chaos until we're back in control. Welcome to the world of evolution.
Rather than appeal to a design or order, most of our culture conflicts are settled in power grabs. We live-out evolution. The strong grow louder until opposition is deafened, revealing weaknesses until the unfit shrink away in irrelevance. The strong survive and the weak are scared away to disappear. My self-preservation is the primary goal. Failure is the worst, and weakness and subservience is disrespectful to the value I have given myself. My battle with God is a battle for equality. I want to determine my value, not trust God's picture of worth.
In the Christian worldview, however, my value is not tied to my opinion of success or strength. My value is tied-in with the humility and brokenness of the crucifixion. In the chaos of Christ dying on the cross we find life. Not because God displayed dominance over sin, but because God revealed the power of love. In the crucifixion we find the value of man, and we're exalted. Our design is not to be equal with God, but we are most whole when we rest within God's character; and whether you look at residing in Christ through the crucifixion in Galatians 2:20 or the vine and branches of John 14:16-17, it is plain to the reader that our value is endowed, not earned.
So, the battle isn't so much with each other, but in the way we understand how the world operates. Many of us are taught that we have value because we have taken control of situations and exerted dominance to make it work our way. We learn this in school. High school students are often taught how the world operates without God, and they're encouraged to take control and manipulate patterns and organization found in this godless world for their benefit.
But in the Christian perspective students are taught the organization of the world through God's creative order. Everything has relationship. So, chaos is to be avoided. Power struggles harm and hurt God's design. Humankind exists not because we have fought for existence, but because we bear an image that was endowed by our Creator. So, the reality of inequality isn't with man, it's with God. Man's fight is often to build his own world inside God's world, and the power struggle commences. This is most poignantly seen in the fall of man, where Adam and Eve ate the fruit to know good and evil, and earn their equality with God (Gen. 3:5). That fight to earn equality caused the world to operate outside of God's design, and death, disease, famine, and the like followed in man's wake to resist the design of God in a fight for equality.
In understanding this cultural moment it is important to ask what equality means and what we're fighting for. God gave us this earth to bear his image in organizing it to flourish (Gen. 1:28). How we're taught to relate to the world and order it to flourish has everything to do with our view of our place in God's design. We are to halt the chaos of violence and bring order to the relationships God ordained in the Universe. In our broken world, we find this most powerfully in the restoration God is bringing to the world after the redemptive and finished work of Christ on the cross.
It is eternally significant to invest in a correct Biblical perspective of the world for high school students. Students need to see that their existence is not tied to their ability to defend their voice or their rights. This is part of the reason we believe Hillcrest's theme of Square One has cultural relevance. It drives students to consider the design in creation, the brokenness in the fall, the power of the redemption in Jesus Christ, and the priceless value of restoration in living inside God's design.
Throughout the year Hillcrest students will rebuild an identity that is found wholly in Christ, listening carefully to how he might be calling them to be culture restorers, leading their generation to greater flourishing in the design and hope of Jesus Christ.