Institutional Repentance?

Brown University issued a report in October that brought light to its institutional ties to the slave trade and its efforts to move away from that through memorial and social justice efforts. While it is not unusual for organizations, including universities, to step away from socially unacceptable issues in the present, this is a new move on the part of universities to recognize past wrongs and seek reparations.

Is this a form of repentance or merely the window dressings on the same old institutional mannerisms? Will other universities follow suit in some way?

This idea led me to consider how our faith might impact systems. Is there a need for institutional repentance when institutions have done wrong at macro-levels?

Cynicism Toward My Christian Neighbor

Now, when we spend time talking about loving our Christian brothers and sisters, I think we may all have to make a confession.

It is popular in the church today to be cynical about the church. So much of contemporary writing and speaking within Christian circles in America reflects the value that it is cool to be cynical about the church.

We slam those stiff, retro believers who don’t understand how we are called to love those different from us with HIV/AIDS or who are struggling to save the environment or who are democrats instead of republicans.

We mock those medieval believers who idiotically supported the Crusades which was one of the most stinking smells in the history of the church for how it lacked true love toward the neighbor.

But in doing so, we often sin by failing to love our Christian brothers and sisters. We set up a straw man of who they are and we beat it and burn it. We slam them in the name of self-righteousness about loving others. We say we love but we fail to love.

We say we follow Jesus but we miss the new command he gave: love your brothers and sisters and then the world will know my love.

Love for My Christian Neighbor

Hear Jesus’ words:

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another. (John 13:34-35)

Note three things that are happening in Jesus’ words.

First off, Jesus is specifically addressing those who follow him. The ‘you’ who is receiving the new command is his disciples. He is spending time talking with them near the end of his earthly life, and focusing them in on their relationship with one another.

Secondly, Jesus is specifically calling his followers to show forth his love by loving one another. He is saying that the world’s understanding of his love is powerfully expressed by how his followers love one another. His followers love is to reflect his love, which is divine.

Thirdly, Jesus is saying that His followers will be identified by their love for one another. The clearest sign to others that we are followers of Jesus is that we love one another. The new command that Jesus is giving will be the identity card for his followers. If we love one another, we are seen to follow him. If we fail in that, then . . . no one can make the connection.

So, love your neighbor as yourself and your neighbor is your Christian brothers and sisters.

My Christian Neighbor

Now, I want to do something a bit artificial for a minute.

I want us to divide everyone into two groups, no matter how hard this goes against the grain of my thinking. I want us to consider our love for other Christians and for those who are not Christians.

This is not because there is an ‘in’ and ‘out’ group, but because Jesus teaches some specific things about what it means to love others who are also following Him.

So, everyone is my neighbor.

But, more specifically and first off, other Christians are my neighbor.

Who is My Neighbor?

In the Gospel of Luke 10:25-37, as Jesus expounds on the two greatest commandments, to love God with all of who we are and to love our neighbor as ourself, we encounter an amazing story.

Jesus unveils the great truth that we are to love our neighbor as ourself and he gets this unique response:

“But the man wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?” (10:29)

This is a very important question because, if we can get the right answer out of Jesus, we can be off the hook of this rule.

I mean, it’s just another rule that we can parse and define and clarify until we can ignore it, right?

And so Jesus tells a story. It is the story we know as ‘The Parable of the Good Samaritan.’

When he finishes the story, Jesus asks: “Which of these do you think was a neighbor to the man?” (10:36)

The point of Jesus’ story is that we are neighbors to everyone, no matter the situation. The person next to where we are is our neighbor.

No matter their religious affiliation.
No matter their worldview.
No matter their bad habits.
No matter their socio-economic differences from us.
No matter their attractiveness or repulsiveness.

Everyone is our neighbor.

A New Kind of Urban Christian

I spend a good deal of my time in the city of Milwaukee. I spend a good deal of my time with students in the city who are passionate about having a powerful impact upon the city in the name of Jesus Christ.

Tim Keller, a New York pastor, recently wrote an article entitled “A New Kind of Urban Christian” which is a must-read for anyone interested in being a faithful follower of Jesus in the city.

Take a read here.

Not a Good Bet . . .

A recent article online addressed the increase in recent years of gambling amongst young adults. Here are some stats worth thinking about:

  • American men aged 14-22 who said they gambled once a month rose 20 percent from 2004-2005.
  • 2.9 million Americans between the ages of 14-22 gamble on cards at least once a week.
  • 50.4 percent of male college students gamble on cards at least once a month.
  • 26.6 percent of female college students gamble on cards at least once a month.
  • Internet gambling generated $3.1 billion in revenue in 2001.
  • Internet gambling generated an estimated $12 billion in 2005.

With the increased interest in poker amongst college-age people, it is sad to see so many lives being drawn into the trap of gambling. I think of the words of the Teacher in Ecclesiastes 5:10:

Whoever loves money never has money enough; whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with his income. This too is meaningless.