I've been involved in Campus ministry, either directly or indirectly, for over 40 years. Although there has been much change, one thing remains the same: the transition from adolescence to early adulthood is occurring among students at university. What an exciting time to intersect the lives of people and actually change their destiny!
In the book of Proverbs, Solomon (among others) is addressing youth (1:4). Here, na'ar (youth) can be understood as a person standing on the threshold of maturity. Exactly what a 21st century university student is!
One of the key elements of university students is that they are on a quest for a sense of identity. They've been brought up in homes that would represent a multitude of different worldviews. Regardless of whether their homes were Christian or not, the university student is evaluating how what they have been taught jibes with their increasingly independent view of the world as they launch out on their own.
As we live out the Gospel and help people come to follow Jesus, we can help them both understand and experience a way of life that represents a God-oriented view. Solomon presents only two choices: one that is Kingdom focused and one that is focused on self. The Kingdom leads to life and joy, self leads to death and sadness. The Kingdom choice is wise; the choice of self is foolish.
Although oversimplified, it seems to me that this is the crux of the book of Proverbs. The type of learning isn't one of intellectual grasp, although it can begin here. It's one of internalization. "...to understand...denotes the act of giving heed and considering something with the senses in such a way that understanding about the object takes place within... It is a matter of inward spirit, not of a coerced will and servile compliance."
As Navigators, one of our values is "Love and grace expressed among us in community." Here, as one listens and processes the good news of the Kingdom, one can also experience first-hand what that means. It's in this experience that intellectual understanding becomes internalized and submission to the way of Christ becomes a "matter of inward spirit, not of a coerced will and servile compliance." More and more, those who have yet to find faith in Christ are moved along in their journey through participation in short term mission activities.
In 1:5 specifically, but all through the book the concept of "listening" is spoken of. This involves two important aspects. First, it implies that one person is interacting verbally with another. One cannot listen without words being spoken. This demonstrates the importance of our person to person interaction in the Scriptures. Secondly, to truly listen implies acting on what has been heard. In a sense, to hear and not to do is not to hear at all. As in the Great Commission, obedience, not compliance or performance, is the goal. Jesus Himself said, "Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. Anyone who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them." A disciple obeys the person being followed but from an inward desire.
So, we can actually change the destiny of people at the very point in their lives where they are searching to make sense of this world. Solomon gives solid teaching on the kind of messaging and living that will influence these precious and vulnerable lives. Let's continue to walk in the steps of the original Nav campus ministry leader!