There was once a very smart and hardworking high school graduate who didn't want to go to college.
His parents asked him, “What college are you going to?”
He replied, “I’m not going to college.”
They were taken aback by this remark. He had been such a good student his entire life that they couldn’t understand why he didn’t want to go to college. “Why not?” they asked.
“I don’t like the people there. Especially at universities, everyone is obnoxious about how smart they are and how hard they work. They put down anyone who isn’t as smart as them.”
His mom said, “That’s not true. They are just trying to do their best. Why do you say they put others down?”
He didn’t want to tell his parents what had happened to him before. He had been a straight A student all throughout high school, but there was one semester when he flunked almost all of his classes. He was going through a difficult time and needed someone be there for him, but all of his smart friends dismissed him, so he befriended other students who also got bad grades. Only one true friend stood by him who didn’t care what kind of grades he got. That friend helped him get his grades back up and he got straight A’s for the rest of high school. He never told his parents that his friends stopped talking to him, because he didn’t think they would understand.
He didn’t feel like answering his mom’s question, so that was the end of their discussion.
The next day he accidentally bumped into a woman at a coffee shop who turned out to be a college professor. They got to talking and the college professor asked him if he was going to college.
“No, I’m not,” the high school graduate said.
“Why not? You have to go to college to be successful.”
“Can’t I be successful without going to college? I’m really smart and I work really hard to do my best. I just don’t want to go to college.”
“You need a degree. You can’t make it on your own. Go to college. I’ll even recommend some good ones.”
“I don’t want to go to college.”
The college professor was really upset. She truly believed the only way to be successful was to go to college and get a degree. She wanted this young boy to be successful, so she continued to insist that they he go to college until they had a full out argument.
The boy left the coffee shop and then ran into one of his friends at the bus stop. The friend was really excited. “Guess what? I picked what college I’m going to. I’m so excited!”
“That’s great,” he said sincerely, “I’m really happy for you.”
“What college are you going to?” the friend asked.
“I’m not going.”
“But you have to go. It’s good for you. It’ll make you a better student.”
“I’m already a good student.”
“You’ll be surrounded by people who will help you be better.”
“But what if I don’t want to be the kind of students they are? They’ll just put me down when I fail.”
“You need to go to college,” the friend insisted. They, too, got into an argument until the bus came and his friend got on the bus and left. He chose to walk home.
Once he was home, he firmly decided that he never wanted to go to college. Everyone who told him to go made him feel really bad for not going, and he didn’t want to feel bad about his decision if he didn’t think he was wrong. Why did he need to go to college? He read every day, did community service because he wanted to, and respected his parents. He wasn’t only a good student, he thought, he was also a good person and was doing fine without the judgment of others.
At the bookstore the next day, he ran into his favorite high school teacher. They talked casually about his future plans. Then the teacher asked the inevitable question, “Have you thought about college?”
“I’ve thought about it, and everyone has been trying to convince me to go, but they’re making me feel really bad and I don’t want to go. I don’t think I need to go to college.”
“College isn’t for everyone,” the teacher said.
The boy was shocked. “So, it’s okay if I don’t go?”
The teacher thought about his question, “Yeah, it’s okay, but it’s probably not what’s best for you. You have been one of my best students and everyone else sees that about you. They want you to be successful in life, which is why they’re pushing you so hard to go to college. At the end it’s your choice.”
“Did you like college?”
The teacher smiled, “It was a great experience, and in fact, I’m going back for my PhD. I love learning, and as a teacher, I can’t ever stop learning. I also love the interaction I get with other people who want to learn too. It’s really great. As I said, it’s not for everyone, but furthering my education made me the teacher I am today.”
The boy went home that day thinking about his future. College seemed so great when his teacher was explaining it. If someone like his teacher went to college, then maybe everyone at college wasn’t so bad after all. Maybe he could consider going to college.
This parable is about Christians, or anyone affiliated with a church, who try to convert non religious people. The intentions are good, but most of the time they push people away from God more than they bring people to Him. No one wants to be told what to do and what to believe. And if they already have their own beliefs, then they don’t want to be told that they are wrong.
I think especially new Christians get sucked into attacking atheists or agnostics for not believing in God. They want everyone to be saved and go to Heaven with Christ, but it’s foolish to believe that we, as humans, are the ones who are supposed to save people. Christ has done that already. We should just be open to the ways Christ wants to use us to further his kingdom. The best thing a Christian can do is be an example of Christ’s love. Be open to listening and respectful of what others believe or don’t believe. Be open to questions even if you don't have all the answers. Be inviting of your religion, but don’t try to force someone else to believe what you do.