These remarks are excerpted from a commencement address delivered by J. Christoph Arnold at the Maple Ridge High School in upstate New York on June 8, 2010.
As you embark on a new time I urge you to a true and active prayer life. Why am I talking about prayer tonight? First you need to thank God who created you in His image, and then live accordingly. Only with prayer can you face your future and find your destiny. Prayer is your contribution to the world...
A recent survey showed that present high school graduates are known as a ‘me’ generation. To a large degree they have lost the ability to show empathy or feelings of compassion to their fellow man. Their whole universe is their own success. This frightening trend is attributed to technology and the role of the media, where the constant exposure to violence and sex numbs their minds to the pain of others. Young people, do not live this way! If only one of you swims against the stream, it will have an impact on the whole world. Do not become part of this trend, but use for God’s glory what you were taught by your teachers, your parents and the wider community. Otherwise, you will become emotionally unstable people, who have lost their ability to relate and care for others.
Recently I received a letter from an inmate from a local jail. I had spent an evening there recently talking to thirty inmates together with a former gang member. I have talked to many young people together with this man, and usually he could captivate any audience, but this audience was hard. Everybody wanted to be the toughest, and not show their emotions.
Now, this inmate wrote:
“As you know, I am an eighteen year old inmate at the jail, you have come to my Pod twice before. I was reading one of your books, ‘Escape Routes’ and I couldn’t go on finishing the book because I couldn’t understand. I never felt any of the feelings in this book. I have gone through six years of my life, not feeling any emotion.”
Just imagine, an eighteen year old writing this,
“I’ve gone through six years of my life not feeling any emotions from my actions. I am writing this letter, hoping it reaches you, because I know, as you said, you have seen a lot in your travels, so I was hoping you could possibly help me in my journey, or at least try and help me understand what I am doing wrong.”
Then he says again,
“I don’t show any emotion, no matter the severity of the situation. Please write back …”
This is what I wrote back:
“You know it is not so bad to show your emotions, showing emotion is no sign of cowardice. A person that is really a man is able to cry and is able to laugh. Being able to show emotions is actually a survival tool. Otherwise you will inwardly die.”
I cannot repeat that enough, that being able to show your emotions is a survival tool. This takes more courage than you realize, because we are afraid to show our emotions to our neighbor.
“In other words, you need to start being a human being, this takes courage. Most of the emotional isolation in modern society is rooted in our confusion about the real purpose of living. We forget that our first task is to love God with all our heart, mind and soul and to love our neighbor as ourselves. And if we do that, it would prevent a lot of loneliness and depression.”
Now, to encourage you young people, God has a different calling for each person. God needs every kind of tool to fulfill His history and to express His omnipotence. He even sent Jesus into this world so you can truly live. So young people - nobody can avoid Jesus. The main thing is that you have Jesus as your friend. Only then your life will be on the right track. Without Jesus, you are nothing…
When the time comes for you to leave this world, I hope that you can join Martin Luther King when he said the words that still resound in my ears, “I have been to the mountain top, I have seen the glory of God and I am not afraid.” If you can say that at the end of your life, then life was worthwhile living. May God bless each one of you! Thank you very much!