Telling them that we're with a campus ministry always drew interesting responses. Some kids and parents would shriek with joy: "There ARE Christians on this campus! We've been praying that we'd find some!"
And others blew us off, quickly changed the subject, or just made it abundantly clear that they wanted nothing to do with us.
One year at VCU a student responded with a battery of questions: "you mean you go to church and read your Bibles and pray and stuff? in college? why?"
In his mind, Christianity was automatically linked with the God who says "no." No to the things that any sane college student would want to do (presumably drink a lot and have lots of sex, maybe a little recreational drug use to go with it) and yes to things that are not any fun whatsoever--like reading a 2,000-year-old book that says you can't drink and you can't have sex. Why would anyone want to do that?
And I seriously agree with him. If "no" is the last word on the God of the Bible, I wouldn't want anything to do with him either. In fact, Jesus had some really harsh things to say to people who majored exclusively on the "no" in his day--who used the "no" and the threat of the "no" to control and manipulate the people.
But the good news is that the God of the Scriptures is not a "no" God. And today I was brought to one of my favorite passages in all of the Scriptures that reminded me of that from 2 Corinthians 1.
in him [Jesus] it has always been "Yes." For no matter how many promises God has made, they are "Yes" in Christ.Yeah, okay, so there's a bunch of no's in Scripture. But here's the deal: the no's are only there to serve the "yes." No to drunkness, no to sexual expression outside of marriage, no to adultery, no to dozens upon dozens of things.
But "no" is never the last word. In fact, it's not even the first word. Yes is always both the first and the last word to us from the God of the Scriptures.
It all starts with God's invitation to us to step into true human flourishing. "Come and follow me and live!" he shouts in every page of Scripture and throughout human history. The first word to us is "yes!"
But we push-back. We say "no." "No" to his invitation to life, "no" to living life on our Maker's terms, "no" to walking in the light. We say no.
And so God says "NO!" to our no. God is emphatic: he will bless us with every good thing in Jesus Christ. He makes promises that twist and turn and unfold into infinite beauty and splendor and wonder and awe.
"I will bless you in Jesus," God says.
"No," we retort.
"NO!" God says, "I WILL bless you."
And so we come to the point of the gospel and the point of this whole Christianity thing. The point of following Jesus is for us to run wild and free in the vast undiscovered continents of the glory and wonder and love and power and beauty and purposes of God. That is his emphatic "YES" to us...and to the whole world.
There are many religions and variations on religions in the world that are utterly predicated on the "no." But Christianity is not one of them. In fact, Christianity is the only religion that starts and ends with a God who says "YES!"
And the only religion that says that God himself went to great lengths to secure that yes for us...even to death on a cross.