I know your works, that are neither cold nor hot. I could wish you were cold or hot. So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spit you out of My mouth. Revelation 3:15-17
In my four years at school, I have come across hundreds of Orthodox college students. From being staff at Camp Saint Paul and Ionian Village to College Conference East and several other regional and district OCF retreats; from my position on the OCF Student Leadership Board to my internship at the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America; and finally, from being president of my local OCF chapter at Fordham University, I have met all types and kinds of Orthodox college students. One thing I want to warn against that I’ve seen and experienced is being “lukewarm.”
At Fordham I played club soccer all four years. I played growing up, and captained my high school team as well. If you were standing next to me and asked me right now if I were a soccer player, I would say “yes, of course.” I don’t have to be physically on the field playing, to consider myself a soccer player. The same goes for being an Orthodox Christian. I am not a Christian simply when I am in church. I am a Christian when I am on the soccer field. I am a Christian in my science classes. I am also a Christian when I am at a college party.
We all know college is a time when our faith is tested. I do not need to explain the struggles of drinking, drugs, and hookup culture. What does need to be examined, however, is the apathy that many students have towards the faith. I am no exception. My freshman year I was probably going to church once a month, max. Now, I find myself going regularly. My sophomore and junior years I did several internships in various marketing positions. Now I find myself wrapping up an internship at the Archdiocese in New York.
A huge problem many students have, especially at Fordham, is they get caught up not only in socializing, but also in their studies. The pressures students put on themselves to get the top internships and ace finals are horrifying. At the final judgment God isn’t going to ask you what you got on your accounting final, he is going to ask you if you followed his commandments. Think of the context of the 4th commandment, “Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labor, and do all thy work: But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God” (Ex 20:8-10). Many college students can’t find the time to go to church, let alone a one-hour OCF meeting. If you call yourself a Christian, then you are accepting the belief that this world is not permanent and that the real point of our creation is to follow Christ now, so that we can be engulfed by His love after death. This not only starts with the Liturgy, but also carries over into our everyday lives. Whether it is in our office at work, in our class at school, or at a bar off campus, we are always called to be loving, practicing Christians.
A priest at once gave me this valuable advice that I always carry with me
No one said being Orthodox was easy, no one said it would always be fun. But the reward of a life in Christ is to join Him in heaven. God should be at the tip of your tongue in everything you say, and at the tip of your fingers in everything you do.
We aren’t all called to work for the Church, but we are all called to love God, and love others because they, too, are created in the image and likeness of Him. We become successful accountants, lawyers, marketers, and historians so that we can use our living to benefit others, starting with our family and branching out to the poor and needy. We work as scientists to discover more hidden wonders in this world created for us by God. While in the office we express love and kindness to our coworkers. We go to the local watering hole with the intention of having a fun night out with our friends, not to get blackout drunk and make irresponsible and irreversible decisions.
Too many students compartmentalize their faith, and put it into a box (one usually too small). But in reality, what we are is, “a Christian who likes soccer,” or “a Christian who is a bio major,” or “a Christian who is interning.” We are first and foremost Christians; that is our most important full-time job. And if we dare to call ourselves Christians, then why would we not be focusing on our faith as much as we can? That means attending Liturgy, that means connecting with students in a loving way, both in OCF and not. That means helping the community around us. That means having and active prayer life.
Do not be lukewarm, or you will be spat out. Do not be the student that only goes to church on holidays when home. Do not be the student that is too busy studying to make it to OCF or a volunteering event once in a while. Do not be the student that is too lazy to pray daily. Remember that we must take ownership and responsibility of our faith. We are not only Christians on Sunday. At every moment, and in every action we are representing our Christian faith to others. It is expected that we struggle, and with struggle comes sin. But in the wake of sin must come repentance. If we are truly Orthodox Christians, we aren’t ever passive. We believe in constant salvation, and an ongoing attempt to join Christ in the afterlife. So as a graduating senior, my advice to college students is to own your faith, and own it now. I didn’t make many true friends in my OCF until later on in college. Now, I never go to church alone. Find those who take the faith seriously, and stick by them. Your fellowship and steadfast nature will draw others to you.
Alex Kuvshinoff has been a Regional Leader on the OCF Student Leadership board for the last two years. He is a recent graduate of Fordham University, with a B.S. in Business Administration and Minor in History. He is set of be on staff at Ionian Village this summer, and will be starting work in NYC this September.