Recently I heard a Commencement speech at the graduation ceremony of the Christian school where I teach. If you are not a teacher, you don’t hear many of these. They are unusual speeches, I think. As I was listening, I got to wondering what I would say if I was ever called upon to give a commencement speech. I never taught these Seniors but I did get to know some of them. And my affection for them, got me wondering what I would want to say…what I want them to hear. By the time I left the building, I knew what I would say.
A number of years ago I was an associate pastor at a church and I was looking at athe preaching schedule to see when I preached next. I panicked because I thought I was scheduled to preach on Mother’s Day. I had never heard a good Mother’s Day sermon and I was sure I was not up to the task. But I didn’t feel like I could ignore the day and just preach on something else. Soon enough, though, I realized I had looked at the wrong day and I was not scheduled to preach on Mother’s Day. But I continued to think about what I would’ve preach on that day. And then I landed on a passage and message I thought was appropriate. And then I started to actually wish I could preach on Mother’s Day. I spent so much time thinking about this I was disappointed at the prospect of not preaching my sermon.
So I wrote it all down.
My blog was starting to get some serious traction. Every now and again I would write something that would get a good deal of traffic. So after writing it all down, I posted it.
That blog post has been my most popular piece of writing ever. Nothing else comes close. Even when it isn’t Mother’s Day, I hear from moms who thank me for writing that short sermon down.
Paul says in Romans 8:1, “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.” My message was “Even though you may feel condemned, there is therefore no condemnation for those moms who are in Christ Jesus.”
And I listed out all the reasons they may feel condemned and reminded them that because of what Christ has done, there is no condemnation from God.
Regardless of how much they mess up
Regardless of how much they feel condemned.
They are not.
I tell you this story because I want you to go ahead and hear that good news now. You are going to do things that will make you feel condemned. Some will be sinful. Some will not. Nothing I can say will stop you from sinning. On this side of glory, we will both kick and scream against the goodness of God. We will not only sin and feel like we are rejected by God, but we will be rejected by others and therefore feel condemned. I want you, my brothers and sisters in Christ, to know that because of the life and death and resurrection of Christ, that is not the case.
You are not condemned, my brothers and sisters.
You are not condemned when you fail in your studies.
You are not condemned when you fail your friends.
You are not condemned when they fail you.
You are not condemned when you fail to live up to the social expectations of your peers.
You are not condemned, though you’ll feel like it, if you are rejected by a fraternity or sorority.
You are not condemned when you are rejected by someone you have fallen in love with.
You are not condemned when you are not able to live up to the expectations of your parents.
You are not condemned when you cannot afford what others are able to afford.
You are not condemned by your depression.
You are not condemned by your eating disorder.
You are not condemned by your flirtations with drinking and drugs.
You are not condemned by your lack of fashion-sense.
You are not condemned when you look back and regret your course of study.
You are not condemned by your loneliness.
You are not condemned by your sexual sins.
You are not condemned when you experience social anxiety.
You are not condemned when the stares of others make you self-conscious about your body.
You are not condemned when you miss the security of a home you longed to move out of.
You are not condemned when you get cut from the team.
You are not condemned when you don’t get the part.
You are not condemned when you lose the scholarship because of your grades.
You are not condemned by thoughts of taking your life.
You are not condemned when that one sin that you cannot stop, feels like an out of control train bearing down on you.
“There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
If this is true of me as a 46 year old adult, then it is true for this graduating class. For you are no more a sinner in need of grace then I am.
There are going to be times throughout the rest of your life that your own voice and the voice of the culture will collude to make you feel condemned. But if you are in Christ, the Scriptures are clear, “there is therefore no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.”
There may be some who think this message is dangerous. They may worry that by telling you this I have encouraged you to sin. Yeah, that could happen. But I also believe that the more you believe this good news, the more the Holy Spirit will fill you with love for Christ because of his graciousness. This is no less true for students than it is for adults.
This has always been and will always be my message to students and adults alike. This is my message to you today.
Congratulations and may God bless you with endurance as you begin your journey.