You’ve Graduated. Now What?

I recently came across a picture on the internet of a college graduate holding a cardboard box with the words “now what” written on it. This picture perfectly describes the sentiments of many college graduates around this time.

What do we do now?

This can be a jarring question as someone is transitioning from college to the real world, especially in a world today that is more divided and polarized than ever. There can be a lot of fear in leaving what we know and going into the unknown, but I believe the next generation of followers of Jesus have been placed in a time such as this, by the providence of God, to make a kingdom difference in this world of division, hate and suffering. The call to discipleship for followers of Jesus in the next generation is more serious than ever. The mission and purpose the next generation has before them reminds me of a story I heard about Bonhoeffer.

In 1933, a young historian came up from Berlin to visit Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a German pastor, social activist, and theologian known for his teachings on discipleship and his resistance to Nazi dictatorship.

Bonhoeffer had grown disillusioned with the German church, which was at the time supporting the Nazi regime. As a response, Bonhoeffer started a small countercultural community with the purpose for this community to become “salt and light” as Jesus taught in Matthew 5. He knew that the only way the Nazi disciples and regime could be overcome was by doubling down on discipleship and holiness. Bonhoeffer knew that what he was doing with that community had to be stronger than what Hitler was doing with his army. He famously said to the historian that “this must be stronger than that.”

When I think about the division that is so evident in our culture, and I consider the pain, sin and suffering all around us, I must conclude, like Bonhoeffer, that our discipleship from Jesus must be stronger than the discipleship the world has to offer. As graduates consider their next season of life—whether they are starting careers, getting married or moving to another country—I think the best way they can make a difference and walk with resilience in their discipleship to Jesus is by knowing their God-given identity and purpose.

PREPARED FOR THIS

As college graduates go into the world, the most important thing they need to remember is that God has prepared good works for them to do and accomplish for his kingdom (Eph. 2:10). College graduates, you have been created in the image of God which means there are eternal implications for your career, work and relationships. Your identity and purpose in life are even bigger than what you went to school for or even what you are about to do with your life. Our purpose and identity must flow from the One who created us and brought us into being (1 Peter 2:9; Eph. 1:3–14; Eph. 2:8–10; Rom. 8:28–29).

Being created in the image of God means we are called to image and mirror God to those around us. We are to reflect the characteristics of God to the world. The primary way we will do this is by loving our neighbors, those in close proximity to us. Love should be the overarching theme of everything we do. Our ultimate goal of image bearing is that we would express love for God and love for our neighbors genuinely and holistically (Mark 12:31). One of the greatest opportunities graduates will have to display the nature and character of God and to promote goodness and justice will be through their identity and purpose.

When we enter into the kingdom of God by trusting in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, our identity and purpose changes. We are given roles within God’s kingdom to help further advance God’s kingdom in the world. In light of this, every opportunity, big or small, dangerous or not, will be seen as an opportunity to advance God’s kingdom in the world. As you graduate and think about life beyond the classroom, what would it look like to reorient your life and dreams around God’s kingdom?

ORIENTED AROUND THE KINGDOM

The career you have chosen matters to God. Your future matters to God. Every talent, gifting, relationship and opportunity before you matters to God. You can live a life of purpose and flourishing, because, if you are a follower of Jesus, then everything in your life is under his rule, control, and power. If your life is under the rule of Jesus, your life not only matters, but it is a part of God’s eternal and victorious kingdom that is advancing in the world.

As you consider life beyond college and answer the question, “Now what?” remember that your life isn’t random, meaningless or without hope. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus shows us that your life as a college graduate is full of intention, hope, meaning and eternal purpose. Your career matters and can be used for God’s kingdom. Your family life matters because your family can be used to advance God’s kingdom. Your life with your friends matters because your community can be used to advance God’s kingdom in the world. So now what? May your life after graduation bring God’s kingdom to this earth as it is in heaven.

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This article originally appeared on LifewayVoices.com and is reposted here by permission.

Charles Holmes Jr.
Charles Holmes Jr.

Charles Holmes Jr. is a writer and the HBCU college director at the Summit Church and resides in Durham, North Carolina.