During my undergraduate years, I began to wonder whether there was something fundamentally incompatible between higher education and being a follower of Jesus.
In fact, I went through my entire undergraduate and graduate years at the University of Texas without hearing any of my 50-or-so professors ever identify themselves as a follower of Jesus. Some of the non-Christian professors, on the other hand, were quite uninhibited in ridiculing Jesus and the Christian faith.
My Angst About My Faith
This was personally troubling to me. My angst about my faith did motivate me to dig deeper to try to establish whether there was indeed a reasonable basis for being a follower of Jesus. Happily, I found in the writing of C.S. Lewis and other Christian apologists the assurance that I needed.
During graduate school I realized that I had the opportunity to be for my students what no one had been for me – a professor who was also known as a follower of Jesus.
Midway through the first semester that I taught, I decided how I would explain this. I carefully crafted a very short end-of-class speech expressing my desire that we know each other as people. I included several things about me personally, including my various interests and my Christian commitment.
I Panicked … And Dismissed The Class
I went to class that day both excited and apprehensive. When I finished my lecture five minutes before the end of class, I could have talked about my faith. Instead, I panicked and dismissed the class early.
I went to class 22 times in a row with this same intention, failing again and again. Finally, before the final exam, I did it.
I shared with the students how much I had enjoyed teaching them, that I was a Christian, and that I would be pleased to visit with any of them who might be curious about why. I had no takers, but it was a faith barrier which, once broken, would never again be so difficult. I told each successive class something about myself and my faith.
In my final semester of graduate school, I taught a business calculus class. One-third of the students were Jewish. I wondered if it would be wise to just skip identifying myself as a Christian for fear I might offend one of them. After praying about it, I felt led to identify myself as a follower of Jesus.
That night I received a call from the Dean of Students inquiring about my class that day.
As my heart pounded, Dean Campbell explained that the “Campbell twins” in my class were his sons, and that he had heard from them what I had shared briefly that afternoon.
What The Twins Heard
He went on to explain to me that he was calling to thank me. He was a Christian; his sons had not been walking with the Lord as college students, and somehow God has used my brief comments to rekindle their interest in following Jesus. He went on to explain that he had called every Bradley in the phone book (22 to get to “Walter Bradley”) to find and thank me.
Jesus tell us, “Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” I cannot honor the last half of this verse without letting students know the source of whatever goodness and kindness they see in how I treat them.
For the past 38 years, I have regularly included a simple statement about my faith as part of my introduction of my class each year, with many wonderful experiences resulting.
Exactly how we let people know in an appropriate way about our faith is different for each of us, but I think this should be a goal for each of us to whom God has given this very significant platform of influence.
© 2007 Walter Bradley Used by Permission of Faculty Commons