Human Identity: The Image of God

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What does it mean to be human? What is our core identity?

The way we see ourselves and others creates the world we see. Our basic vision of people shapes our attitudes and behaviors, and these end up structuring our relationships and societies.

From this perspective, the question of human identity is not a speculative fancy. It is immediately practical and deeply consequential for our lives, communities, and world.

The Bible introduced a rebellious vision of human identity that disrupted the assumptions of its cultural context.

Ancient mythology constructed culture-making, society-structuring answers to the question of human identity. For example, see the cover picture above, the influential Mesopotamian myth Enuma Elish (“When on High”) explained that humans were made from the blood of a murdered god. The hero god Marduk (pictured as a warrior) slaughtered his rival goddess Tiamat (pictured as a dragon), and this is where we begin. According to this civilization-shaping narrative, human life is rooted in violence. (It’s also worth noting the gendered nature of this violence.)

Moreover, according to Enuma Elish, the purpose of human life is to labor as the gods’ slaves, building temples for their relaxation and farming food for their feasting... Read More

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Announcing my new course:

Neighbor-Love

Neighbor-love is a revolutionary idea. It transforms how people see and treat one another across our greatest divisions. And yet it has been neglected or misunderstood today.

This 8-hour course distills my deepest passions and highest hopes as a professor and practitioner. Please join me and rediscover the rich history, profound meaning, and practical implications of neighbor-love. Become an ambassador of neighbor-love for our world.

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I write to help people stop and think, and thus to restart and live more thoughtful, loving, deeply human lives with others. As you stop and think with me, I hope you discover new beginnings that enrich and enlarge your love.

Remembering Jean Vanier: The Tender Rebel We Need Today

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Dear friends,

On May 7, Jean Vanier passed away at the age of ninety. Many people have never heard of Vanier, but I believe he should be respected and celebrated like Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, and other iconic moral leaders who inspire and challenge us. Vanier shows us a fundamentally new way of being human that is so beautiful and healing.

I explore Jean Vanier’s life and thought in my video course Neighbor-Love, and I want to invite you to spend a few minutes learning about this beautiful man with me. “The Life and Love of Jean Vanier” (4 minutes) explores Vanier’s story and work. “Vanier’s Wisdom of Tenderness” (8 minutes) explores five of the core ideas that energized his vocation and defined his philosophy. Both videos are free.

Stop & Think this week is a lightly edited version of “Vanier’s Wisdom of Tenderness.” Look for the recommended reading list at the end. Thank God for Jean Vanier!

Yours with gratitude,

Andrew

 

What were the core ideas that inspired Jean Vanier’s work with l’Arche for the last half-century?.. Read More

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Announcing my new course:

Neighbor-Love

Neighbor-love is a revolutionary idea. It transforms how people see and treat one another across our greatest divisions. And yet it has been neglected or misunderstood today.

This 8-hour course distills my deepest passions and highest hopes as a professor and practitioner. Please join me and rediscover the rich history, profound meaning, and practical implications of neighbor-love. Become an ambassador of neighbor-love for our world.

View Course

Donation = Appreciation

Stop and Think remains free (and ad-free) and takes time to write, and money to sustain.

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I write to help people stop and think, and thus to restart and live more thoughtful, loving, deeply human lives with others. As you stop and think with me, I hope you discover new beginnings that enrich and enlarge your love.

My Enemy Became My Healer

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Last week, I felt spiritually sick. Perhaps you know the feeling.

It was like my soul was nauseous, bent over, and invisibly heaving inside. My chest felt like it was caving in under the pressure of a sorrow, discouragement, and confusion whose source I couldn’t pinpoint. I told Lily that I felt like I was dying inside.

Then on Tuesday afternoon, I was scheduled to meet with someone that I thought hated me for the last two years.

This person had publicly attacked my character and tried to ruin my ministry, because I asked difficult questions and called for deeper Christian thought. This episode was extremely painful and consumed a lot of my time and energy. I felt like someone I didn’t even know was trying to assassinate God’s calling on my life after Lily and I had sold our things and risked our livelihood to serve in Ethiopia.

So, as 3:30pm approached on Tuesday, I thought about rescheduling the meeting... Read More

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Announcing my new course:

Neighbor-Love

Neighbor-love is a revolutionary idea. It transforms how people see and treat one another across our greatest divisions. And yet it has been neglected or misunderstood today.

This 8-hour course distills my deepest passions and highest hopes as a professor and practitioner. Please join me and rediscover the rich history, profound meaning, and practical implications of neighbor-love. Become an ambassador of neighbor-love for our world.

View Course

Donation = Appreciation

Stop and Think remains free (and ad-free) and takes time to write, and money to sustain.

Please consider becoming a Sustaining Patron with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of coffee and a good meal.

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I write to help people stop and think, and thus to restart and live more thoughtful, loving, deeply human lives with others. As you stop and think with me, I hope you discover new beginnings that enrich and enlarge your love.

Resurrection: What We Believe and Why It Matters

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Dear friends,

Melkam Fasika – Happy Easter! Yesterday we celebrated Christ’s resurrection in Ethiopia following the Orthodox tradition. This week I take a look at what Christians actually believe about the resurrection and why it matters for us today. I pray your week is full of fresh hope, peace, and joy.

Yours,
Andrew

Easter is the special holiday when Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus after he was executed outside Jerusalem. What do Christians believe about the resurrection and why does it matter for us today?

What We Believe

Peter explained the meaning of Jesus’s resurrection to a crowd in Jerusalem soon after this extraordinary event: “You, with the help of wicked men, put Jesus to death by nailing him to the cross. But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him” (Acts 2:23-24).

The Christian belief in resurrection is threefold.

First, God miraculously raised Jesus from the dead – never to die again.

.. Read More
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Announcing my new course:

Neighbor-Love

Neighbor-love is a revolutionary idea. It transforms how people see and treat one another across our greatest divisions. And yet it has been neglected or misunderstood today.

This 8-hour course distills my deepest passions and highest hopes as a professor and practitioner. Please join me and rediscover the rich history, profound meaning, and practical implications of neighbor-love. Become an ambassador of neighbor-love for our world.

View Course

Donation = Appreciation

Stop and Think remains free (and ad-free) and takes time to write, and money to sustain.

Please consider becoming a Sustaining Patron with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of coffee and a good meal.

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I write to help people stop and think, and thus to restart and live more thoughtful, loving, deeply human lives with others. As you stop and think with me, I hope you discover new beginnings that enrich and enlarge your love.

The End of Revenge: Easter’s Silent Miracle

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There is a silent miracle hidden in the story of Jesus’s death and resurrection. But I’ve never seen a preacher or commentator point it out.

As we know, Jesus was unjustly arrested, brutally tortured, and horrifically executed by the religious and political leaders of his society. The Roman invention of crucifixion was meant to maximize agony and anguish. Perhaps more painful than his physical suffering, Jesus died in betrayal, abandonment, and mockery.

That’s what Jesus got after “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son” (John 3:16). That was Jesus’s reward for proclaiming good news to the poor, declaring freedom for prisoners, opening the eyes of the blind, and speaking God’s blessing (Luke 4:18-19).

It’s hard to imagine greater justification for righteous anger and brutal revenge. After all, Jesus was known as the “son of David.”

If we look at the end of King David’s story, bitter anger and brutal revenge is exactly what we find... Read More

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Announcing my new course:

Neighbor-Love

Neighbor-love is a revolutionary idea. It transforms how people see and treat one another across our greatest divisions. And yet it has been neglected or misunderstood today.

This 8-hour course distills my deepest passions and highest hopes as a professor and practitioner. Please join me and rediscover the rich history, profound meaning, and practical implications of neighbor-love. Become an ambassador of neighbor-love for our world.

View Course

Donation = Appreciation

Stop and Think remains free (and ad-free) and takes time to write, and money to sustain.

Please consider becoming a Sustaining Patron with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of coffee and a good meal.

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I write to help people stop and think, and thus to restart and live more thoughtful, loving, deeply human lives with others. As you stop and think with me, I hope you discover new beginnings that enrich and enlarge your love.

Jesus and Resistance to Injustice

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Dear friends,

It’s been moving to receive messages from abuse survivors in response to my essays on Jesus’s condemnation of abuse and Aquinas’s love-based defense of opposing injustice. Thank you for writing.

This week, my essay will be a bit longer as I dive deeper into this topic of loving our neighbors – enemies and the abused – as ourselves. I look at the ethics of resistance in Jesus’s teaching and practice.

Thanks as always for stopping and thinking with me on these important, very practical topics!

Yours,
Andrew

Thanks to our newest monthly supporter, Lindsay, and the 30 supporters who make this writing possible.

Introduction

Last week, I concluded my essay by asking if Jesus supported principled resistance to injustice.

This question arose from Thomas Aquinas’s argument that forcefully opposing an abuser can actually be an act of love. For Aquinas, when we stop injustice, (1) we love our victimized neighbors by protecting them; (2) we love our abusive neighbor by giving them the chance to repent and be restored; and (3) we love our abusive neighbor by preventing them from further damning themselves, even if they don’t repent... Read More

  • Share post

Announcing my new course:

Neighbor-Love

Neighbor-love is a revolutionary idea. It transforms how people see and treat one another across our greatest divisions. And yet it has been neglected or misunderstood today.

This 8-hour course distills my deepest passions and highest hopes as a professor and practitioner. Please join me and rediscover the rich history, profound meaning, and practical implications of neighbor-love. Become an ambassador of neighbor-love for our world.

View Course

Donation = Appreciation

Stop and Think remains free (and ad-free) and takes time to write, and money to sustain.

Please consider becoming a Sustaining Patron with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of coffee and a good meal.

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I write to help people stop and think, and thus to restart and live more thoughtful, loving, deeply human lives with others. As you stop and think with me, I hope you discover new beginnings that enrich and enlarge your love.

Enemy-Love, Abuse, and Thomas Aquinas

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Two of my recent essays have pointed to a deep tension in Christian ethics rooted in Jesus’s own teaching.

The first essay – “How Should We Treat Our Enemies?” – unpacked Jesus’s groundbreaking command to love our enemies. Jesus taught this command so emphatically that he seems to require obeying it as a condition for salvation: “Love your enemies…that you may be children of your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45; Luke 6:35). As we know, Jesus himself died asking God to forgive his killers (Luke 23:34).

The second essay – “Jesus’s Condemnation of Abuse” – unpacked Jesus’s fierce teaching against abuse. Jesus was so severe that he said it would be better to die a terrifying death than to harm a vulnerable person (Matthew 18:6-9; Mark 9:42-50; Luke 17:1-5). Jesus had zero tolerance for abusive behavior.

If you only read my first essay, you might think that Jesus wants us to “love” our abusers and “sacrificially” accept their violence like he did on the cross... Read More

  • Share post

Announcing my new course:

Neighbor-Love

Neighbor-love is a revolutionary idea. It transforms how people see and treat one another across our greatest divisions. And yet it has been neglected or misunderstood today.

This 8-hour course distills my deepest passions and highest hopes as a professor and practitioner. Please join me and rediscover the rich history, profound meaning, and practical implications of neighbor-love. Become an ambassador of neighbor-love for our world.

View Course

Donation = Appreciation

Stop and Think remains free (and ad-free) and takes time to write, and money to sustain.

Please consider becoming a Sustaining Patron with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of coffee and a good meal.

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I write to help people stop and think, and thus to restart and live more thoughtful, loving, deeply human lives with others. As you stop and think with me, I hope you discover new beginnings that enrich and enlarge your love.

Jesus’s Condemnation of Abuse

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Dear friends,

Two weeks ago, I asked the question, “How should we treat our enemies?” and unpacked Jesus’s unprecedented answer to this question. Jesus taught that we should love our enemies – not to intensify divine payback in the afterlife, not to prove our moral superiority over them, not even to convert them to our religion. Jesus taught that we should love our enemies and will their flourishing simply because this is God’s character and command for us. God is an enemy-lover, so we should be too.

But a reader replied and told me that she thought my essay was one-sided and potentially harmful in light of her experience of abuse. She wrote, “Sometimes I may love the enemy too much and lose my own health and ability to function… It would not be right to act maliciously against them. But I may have to say no to helping them further.”

I agree with her, and I think Jesus did too... Read More

  • Share post

Announcing my new course:

Neighbor-Love

Neighbor-love is a revolutionary idea. It transforms how people see and treat one another across our greatest divisions. And yet it has been neglected or misunderstood today.

This 8-hour course distills my deepest passions and highest hopes as a professor and practitioner. Please join me and rediscover the rich history, profound meaning, and practical implications of neighbor-love. Become an ambassador of neighbor-love for our world.

View Course

Donation = Appreciation

Stop and Think remains free (and ad-free) and takes time to write, and money to sustain.

Please consider becoming a Sustaining Patron with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of coffee and a good meal.

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I write to help people stop and think, and thus to restart and live more thoughtful, loving, deeply human lives with others. As you stop and think with me, I hope you discover new beginnings that enrich and enlarge your love.

Do You Want to Go to Heaven When You Die?

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Do you want to go to heaven when you die?

That’s the urgent question many preachers ask us in church. In fact, it’s the climax of the show and how many churches measure their success. The assumption is that everyone wants to go to heaven when they die.

But what if that’s not true?

In fact, what if many Bible-reading, church-going, God-blessing Christians don’t want to go to heaven when they die? What if heaven will be hellish for a lot of us?

Stop and think: What is heaven?

According to the Bible, heaven will be the ultimate mashup party of the world’s diversity. Heaven will make the United Nations look homogenous by comparison.

Again and again, the Book of Revelation affirms that every kind of person will be there, united as one family in the self-sacrificing love of Jesus:

“persons from every tribe and language and people and nation” (5:9),

“[people] from every nation, tribe, people and language” (7:9),

“every nation, tribe, language and people” (14:6),

“all nations” (15:4)... Read More

  • Share post

Announcing my new course:

Neighbor-Love

Neighbor-love is a revolutionary idea. It transforms how people see and treat one another across our greatest divisions. And yet it has been neglected or misunderstood today.

This 8-hour course distills my deepest passions and highest hopes as a professor and practitioner. Please join me and rediscover the rich history, profound meaning, and practical implications of neighbor-love. Become an ambassador of neighbor-love for our world.

View Course

Donation = Appreciation

Stop and Think remains free (and ad-free) and takes time to write, and money to sustain.

Please consider becoming a Sustaining Patron with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of coffee and a good meal.

Sign Up for the Newsletter


I write to help people stop and think, and thus to restart and live more thoughtful, loving, deeply human lives with others. As you stop and think with me, I hope you discover new beginnings that enrich and enlarge your love.

How Should We Treat Our Enemies?

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How Should We Treat Our Enemies?

In recent weeks, our newsfeeds have filled afresh with hatred, conflict, and deadly violence. The horrific terror attacks in Christchurch, which killed 50 Muslims, captured global attention. But sadly this wasn’t the only heartbreaking headline.

In southern Ethiopia, a humanitarian disaster is growing in the wake of conflict between Christians from rival tribes. A senior Christian leader from the region told me in an email that 135 churches have been burned to the ground and a million people driven from their homes. Much of this violence has been fueled by Christians who probably go to church on Sundays and declare, “Jesus is Lord.” The Guardian warns that a “shadow” is falling over Ethiopia.

These stories confront us with an urgent question: What should we do when others hate us and/or we hate them? How should we treat our enemies?

Jesus taught an unprecedented, counter-cultural answer to this life-and-death question. But his teaching is even more powerful when we see it in its larger historical context... Read More

  • Share post

Announcing my new course:

Neighbor-Love

Neighbor-love is a revolutionary idea. It transforms how people see and treat one another across our greatest divisions. And yet it has been neglected or misunderstood today.

This 8-hour course distills my deepest passions and highest hopes as a professor and practitioner. Please join me and rediscover the rich history, profound meaning, and practical implications of neighbor-love. Become an ambassador of neighbor-love for our world.

View Course

Donation = Appreciation

Stop and Think remains free (and ad-free) and takes time to write, and money to sustain.

Please consider becoming a Sustaining Patron with a recurring monthly donation of your choosing, between a cup of coffee and a good meal.

Sign Up for the Newsletter


I write to help people stop and think, and thus to restart and live more thoughtful, loving, deeply human lives with others. As you stop and think with me, I hope you discover new beginnings that enrich and enlarge your love.