I’m excited to announce the launch of my first e-course called Neighbor-Love: A Revolutionary Idea That Could Save Our World. Click the link in the top right to learn more about the course! I am also including more background on why I believe this idea is so important below.
Special thanks to our newest monthly patron, Abigail!, and the 29 monthly subscribers who make my writing possible. We are almost at 30!
Imagine putting on glasses that give you access to a totally new dimension of reality that changes the way you see everything else.
This is what neighbor-love was like in the ancient world. It was a revolutionary vision that transformed how people saw each other and unveiled a new, previously unimaginable world of dignity, generosity, justice, and hope for all people.
Even the most famous ancient philosophers believed that whole groups of people were less than human. Plato argued that disabled people, weak elders, and foreigners should either be excluded or eliminated. Aristotle assumed as obvious that women, children, and slaves were inferior to rich men and should be dominated by them. Cicero called the poor “scum.” Ancient societies were constructed by stories about violent gods who created iron hierarchies of rulers and ruled, if you could manage to stay alive. Enemies were always to be destroyed.
But then the biblical prophets introduced the revolutionary idea of the neighbor: each and and every person is someone that God created with love and that God commands us to love without exception. Before a person is family or friend or enemy or any other category, they are a neighbor. They are someone with precious value in the eyes of God that we are called to see and treat with respect and care – as someone close and important to us.
Jesus was the most radical innovator in this counter-cultural tradition. Jesus insisted that we have never met anyone who is not our neighbor, even across the most bloody divides of religion, ethnicity, money, and politics. Jesus said three words for the first time in history that catalyzed an unbelievable paradigm shift in human consciousness and culture: “Love your enemy.” Why? Because Jesus believed that even the enemy is a neighbor – someone God made, loves, and wants to flourish.
And Jesus went even farther: he insisted that it’s impossible for us to have a real, saving relationship with God unless we love like this – with practical compassion, across every barrier, without restriction or exclusion, for everyone. Religion without neighbor-love is worthless. You can declare God’s name and perform miracles, but if you miss this, you’ve missed everything.
Indeed, Jesus was brutally executed with this radical message on his lips – “Father, forgive them!” – and his final word to his disciples was a commission to take his revolutionary vision global for everyone: “Teach them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
Unsurprisingly, then, the movement Jesus launched was like a wrecking ball in ancient culture. It quickly started demolishing seemingly eternal, untouchable structures like racism, sexism, and classism that devastated humanity. Cultural practices like killing infants, abusing children, debasing women, abandoning the poor, finding entertainment in brutal violence, and dominating foreigners were all challenged. New institutions like public hospitals, orphanages, and schools were born.
And the reason was that each of these groups of people – the lowest, the weakest, the most hated – were now seen through Jesus’s glasses of neighbor-love for the first time in history. The ones who were previously viewed as valueless trash were now seen as precious treasure – as neighbors. Church communities would sell their most valuable possessions just to be able to ransom and care for more neighbors.
Of course, the Christian movement was far from perfect and sometimes terribly corrupted. But the world would never be the same. In many ways, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948 was just an extended commentary on the ethics of neighbor-love that Jesus sent out into the world through ordinary but courageous people two thousand years ago.
I believe neighbor-love remains the most precious treasure of the Christian faith to this day. It completely transfigures how we see one another in the most practical and profound ways. And thus it promises to transform how we treat one another and the cultures we make together. It is a radical revelation and lifestyle of dignity, generosity, justice, and hope for our world still ripped apart with the ancient evils of indifference, dehumanization, and death. We have never needed it more than now.
And this is why I‘m amazed that neighbor-love has been neglected, watered down, or abandoned in so much contemporary Christianity around the world today. Like the foolish man in Jesus’s story, we have buried our talent and camped out in our safe spirituality, when God has given us a precious treasure to steward, grow, and share with the world for its flourishing. J.S. Mill said it well: neighbor-love has become a “dead dogma” encrusted in the blindness of familiarity.
Neighbor-Love: A Revolutionary Idea that Could Save Our World is my response.
This course does something new that I believe is urgently needed: it immerses you in the history, meaning, and practice of neighbor-love from the ancient world to today. Across eight hours of video divided into digestible 5-minute sections, I
- unpack every significant passage in the Bible on neighbor-love,
- walk you through the history of Christian thought,
- wrestle with some of the fiercest modern critiques of neighbor-love,
- and introduce you to several of the most inspiring modern exemplars of neighbor-love – heroes like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther King, Jr., Mother Teresa, and Gary Haugen, as well as other amazing leaders you’ve probably never heard of.
Along the way, I give you carefully curated readings to enrich your learning and a list For Further Reading if you want to go even deeper.
Neighbor-Love weaves together rigorous research and popular accessibility, intellectual depth and practical passion. This course distills my deepest passions and highest hopes as a professor and practitioner. From start to finish, it empowers you to become an ambassador of neighbor-love right now in your everyday life and vocation.
I invite you to join me in rediscovering the radical heart of Christian ethics. Call some friends and family, gather your small group, or organize your staff and spend the next seven weeks immersing yourself in neighbor-love with and for others. I believe your life will never be the same. All profits will go toward promoting neighbor-love in Ethiopia.
As Dr. King so profoundly understood, “This love might well be the salvation of our civilization. Love is ultimately the only answer to humanity’s problems. The one who has love has the key that unlocks the door to the meaning of ultimate reality.”
PS: Special thanks to my friend Shiferaw and his team at Vibe for filming this course. Huge thanks to Graham Smith for inspiring me to create this course and building the online platform for it. You’re both tireless, and I’m extremely grateful.