taking the words of Jesus seriously

The weather was kind this year as SUV’s with license plates from New York and Massachusetts started showing up around town, driving slowly with their turn signals on, trying desperately not to look lost. The sun shone bright and the humidity staid low and the local restaurants were packed with mothers in sun dresses, hugging their children, saying that they couldn’t think of a better gift than seeing their child graduate from college. Such is Mother’s Day in this college town where we have not one university, but two. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be to try to get a room.

But if advice is what you’re looking for, this is the place to be. Our local newspaper was full both Saturday and Sunday of words of wisdom from politicians and civil rights leaders, TV personalities and even the First Lady, all weighing in with one last word for these young folks who’re wrapping up their education to head out into the great wide world of work and family, avocations and citizenship.

All of this reminded me of a conversation I had with a young man who graduated from a local university a few years ago. He’d applied for our internship at Rutba House, and I’d asked him what he hoped to get out of it.

“Well, ” this young man said with an earnest expression, “I want to be a doctor, and I’ve gotten a pre-med degree that’s prepared me for med school. I know med school is hard work, but after five or six more years of school, I’ll know what I need to know to be a doctor. But I thought I should stop and take a year to learn how to live. Because if I don’t learn now, I’m not sure when I’ll be able to.”

Of all the important things that could be said to the class of 2012, I think the most important might be the insight of this young man.

Now is your chance to learn how to live.

Take it.

Because however much you want to make a difference, however much you want to fight injustice, however much you want to love and serve your neighbors, you can only do it as you live. What we need much more than answers to our big problems is people who can live a just and peaceable life, day in and day out, becoming the change they want to see in the world. What we need is people who know how to live.

This is why, some years ago, I worked with about a dozen intentional Christian communities around the country to start a “School for Conversion” that would allow young people to come and see how folks live who’ve tried to shape their whole life around the way of Jesus. We’ve been hosting “weekend visits” for the past six years, and some 1, 500 people have passed through these communities, going on to start communities, to join others, to establish a household of ordinary radicals for their family and friends. They are, in short, a space to come and consider how to live.

The commencement exercises are over here in this college town, and the rain that held off has set in. It’s back to normal life. But I’m delighted to know that, just this coming weekend, SFC is hosting a weekend at Reba Place Fellowship, one of America’s oldest and wisest intentional Christian communities. There’s even a few spots open yet.

So, class of 2012, whether at Reba Place or elsewhere, go out there and learn how to live. You won’t regret the time you spend apprenticing yourself to Jesus’ way.

Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is the author of The Wisdom of Stability: Rooting Faith in a Mobile Culture and Common Prayer. He is an author, speaker, and activist who currently resides in Raleigh, NC at the Rutba House. You can reach him at his website, www.jonathanwilsonhartgrove.com

This article originally appeared on Jonathan’s new blog, “The Everyday Awakening.”

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About The Author


Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove is a celebrated spiritual writer and speaker. Together with his wife, Leah, he co-founded the Rutba House in Durham, NC, where he also directs the School for Conversion (www.schoolforconversion.org). Jonathan works closely with the Rev. Dr. William J. Barber, II to spearhead The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival. Jonathan's newest book is "Reconstructing the Gospel: Finding Freedom from Slaveholder Religion" (InterVarsity Press).

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