| What the World Needs Now Is Hope
In the Midst of Volatility and Bloodshed, SPU
Must Offer Students a Vision for the Future
At a Church Leaders Forum on the topic of religiously
inspired violence, President Philip Eaton exchanged ideas with
guest speaker Vinay Samuel. Samuel, director of the International
Fellowship of Evangelical Mission Theologians, addressed church
leaders about the ways in which Christians are called to “anticipate
the kingdom of God by practicing kingdom principles and values.”
I WAS TALKING some time ago on the phone with
Paul Gigot, the editorial-page editor of The Wall Street Journal.
This was before
the war with Iraq commenced. Mr. Gigot was the featured speaker
for our annual downtown community breakfast, and he had called
to find out about the breakfast, what SPU is like and what counsel
I might give for his address. There was a month between our conversation
and the event, and Mr. Gigot said, “Who knows what the world
will be like by the time I speak.”
I have that feeling every time I write something or show up someplace
?e world seems to shift minute by minute, and the words you may have crafted
yesterday just might be out-of-date today.
We are used to change. Rapid change was one of the great distinguishing characteristics
of the 20th century. For so long, we marveled at the rate of change that new
technological wonders brought into our lives almost daily. Rapid change, day
by day, with no end in sight — each step along the way promising some new
comfort for our lives or efficiency for our work.
But now it seems that change is measured in blood and violence and threatening
chaos. And I have been asking the question: How should leaders lead in such a
world? Specifically, I have been thinking hard, as have all Americans, about
how America, with our unparalleled power and prosperity, should lead in such
The big question is where we can find an anchor, steady and sure, in a rapidly
changing environment. Leaders cannot lead without some sense of continuity, some
steady, credible center to the chaos that swirls about and seems so threatening.
I have been thinking hard as well about our students at Seattle Pacific University.
How should we help them envision the world ahead? How should we be educating
and preparing these students to become leaders in that world? I love our students.
They are so winsome, so gifted, so capable and so smart. Their hearts are very
big. These students, as they become our graduates, will be the ones to carry
our vision of engaging the culture and changing the world into what seems to
divided, bloody and chaotic future. The stakes are very high for our vision and
for our graduates.
And so do we model for them resignation or hand-wringing in the face of this
troubled world? Could we possibly tell them to look the other way? Do we model
anger, cynicism, fear or constant suspicion? When they are asking for ways to
make a difference, do we give them a stone when they are asking for bread?
This is the time for a Christian university to dig down deep into its formative
foundations, down into its rich heritage, down into the biblical teachings that
have anchored our kind of learning from the beginning, and decide quite clearly
what bread we have to offer.
We must give our students the bread of hope, and we have to tell them quite emphatically
from where our hope comes. One of my favorite biblical texts in this regard is
from 1 Peter: “Always be ready to make your defense when anyone challenges
you to justify the hope which is in you. But do so with courtesy and respect. …” This
is our task as a great Christian university: to tell our students, our community,
our world, the source of our hope and to tell them winsomely and convincingly,
with courtesy and respect. This is our task for such a time as this.
We have to craft a vision of hope on the ground-point of our faith in Jesus Christ.
Eugene Peterson’s interpretive transla-tion from 1 Corinthians 13 is so
very helpful: “We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting
in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather
clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as
clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! But for right
now, until that completeness, we have three things to do to lead us toward
that consummation: Trust steadily in God, hope unswervingly, love extravagantly.
the best of the three is love.”
Squeezed right there in between steady trust and extravagant love is unswerving
hope. Hope against the odds. Hope even in the midst of horrific bloodshed.
Hope in the midst of complexity and confusion and volatile change. That’s the
vision we must lift up to our students. That’s the vision that will
ultimately change a very frightened, chaotic world.
— PHILIP W. EATON, PRESIDENT
— BY PHILIP W. EATON, PRESIDENT
— PHOTO BY DANIEL SHEEHAN
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