I just finished my third year of Seminary. Most of the students who started with me just graduated and are moving on to their ministries. Since I have been attending part-time, I still have a few years to go. I haven’t shared much about my experience with my classes here mainly because it has been a real rollercoaster ride and I have just been holding on for dear life! Though it has been challenging, it has also been transformative and life-giving. I am not the same person I was when I started three years ago. I would like to be more intentional about sharing some of my Seminary experiences here so I’ll start with an essay I wrote on the Christian mission. This essay was for my course on Interfaith Studies, Comparative Theology, and Ministry where we learned about many of the world religions and how to best engage with others from different faiths.
The question for the essay was: “What are the features of ‘Christian mission’ in a multireligious society characterized by a widespread poverty and social inequality, animosity and violence between people due to various factors, and ecological deterioration?”
While I am sure there was an appropriate academic answer, I decided to go with a more personal, reflective response. Here is what I wrote:
Our Christian mission is to serve God’s people – not just Christians but all of God’s people – with love and humility rather than with arrogance and power. We are to listen to and lift up others and to trust that God is already working in their lives. We are to be the student when called and to be the teacher when called, and the only way we will know which one is called for at any given time is in relationship with one another.
Jesus tells His disciples in John 13:34-35, “I give you a new commandment, that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” I am not sure that Jesus would recognize us as His disciples, as we have failed to love one another. We have not loved as Jesus commanded and the state of the world is evidence of this. The world does not appear well-loved.
So what does this love look like? For me personally, it looks like education and loving across lines. It looks like advocacy for the marginalized in my life, specifically the LGBTQIA+ community. It looks like holding open doors and inviting people I know and love into spaces where I am allowed but they are not. For me it looks like writing a blog, where I share my faith, my spiritual practices, and my struggles with the state of things. For me it looks like standing at the edges with those who don’t feel like they have a place at the center. For me it looks like donating time and resources to the organizations who are working tirelessly to make room at the table, to feed and educate the poor, to plant trees, to teach God’s word, and to share the benefits of spiritual practices. It looks like working with children and youth so they too can live into a Christian mission of love. It looks like cultivating friendships outside my faith to better understand others and their experience with what I call God’s life-giving Spirit. It looks like laying down my religious language so as to open lines of communication with the rest of God’s people. For me it looks like having hard conversations with people at my church, in my family, and in my friend groups about how Christianity and God’s word have been used as weapons against the least of these. It also looks like learning how to repent and apologize when I have been the one in the wrong using my faith as a way to judge or harm others. It looks like being willing to learn something new every day and being willing to wander into uncharted territory for the sake of love, relationship, and justice.
I certainly do not have all of the answers. I am grateful for educational and religious leaders who are willing to take a stand and teach those under their care how to better love people. I am grateful for brave voices from the margins who have risked everything to call attention to injustices and disparities. I am grateful for a savior who came for all of us and I pray that we can be better so that He will know us by our love, and as a result, all will know the love Jesus came to share.