What is the real world?

the real world

I have never liked hearing people tell graduates, “Welcome to the real world,” as if how they lived in college just didn’t matter. College is part of the real world! All the decisions that students make set a course for the rest of their lives. And what is “real”, anyway?

The dictionary defines “real” as “genuine; not counterfeit, artificial, or imitation; authentic.” I believe the most real world is the kingdom of God, and entering that world allows Jesus to transform us into our genuine, authentic selves.

I’ve watched all sorts of students make all sorts of decisions about how to spend their time and money, who to date and marry, where to live and where (or what) to worship. For graduates who have wrestled with these real issues in light of God’s wisdom, they are following Jesus into the post-college world and still living “real” lives of faith in God’s kingdom.

Here’s my survey. What do you think is most real for college students?

  • a job or a calling?
  • tolerance or truth?
  • the Eucharist or cheap beer?
  • a big paycheck or stewardship?
  • grace or legalism?
  • people as objects or as God’s image?
  • staying on the couch or going to church?
  • sex or purity?
  • selfish ambition or humility?
  • video games or Bible study?
  • despair or community?
  • atheism or faithful seeking?
  • loneliness or love?
  • self-interest or self-sacrifice?
  • drifting away or seeking Christ?

The real world is made up of real choices, for students and everyone else. Embracing the love and grace of Jesus today is the best preparation for life tomorrow.

My friend, Tommy, is a good example of someone who, during his college years, took seriously Jesus’ words to seek first the Kingdom of God. Recently I attended Tommy’s graduation when he received his degree in biomedical engineering from Johns Hopkins University. Tommy spent a lot of time as a student investing in the kingdom of God at Hopkins. He’s a brilliant guy and used his intellect and influence to share God’s love in his department. Tommy was also the worship leader for the InterVarsity group and mentored younger students. He reached out to non-believers, built up the Christian community and served homeless people and refugees in the city of Baltimore, Maryland.

Whether or not Tommy graduated with university honors, I believe he is honored by Jesus for his faith and sacrifices during his student years. As Tommy explores graduate school, jobs and mission work, I know that his life will bear fruit for God even more abundantly than in college.

Tommy and other graduates who love Jesus will live out the gospel wherever they go because they have already experienced “the real world” of God’s kingdom on campus. That kingdom reality will continue to grow, like a mustard seed, as they stand at the threshold of the rest of their lives.

—Natalie Flora