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Dear Bethel Community:

“But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they came together. And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question, to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And second is like it, you shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets.’” Matthew 22:34-40

“So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them.” Genesis 1:27

The words of Jesus and the words of Moses give us a clear message about how we are to see other people. As a Christian learning community, we are committed to live out these biblical principles in how we interact with one another and how we live and serve in the name of Christ. Above all else, we are called to love God and to love others—Jesus made that very clear. Our love for God is reflected in how we love others and that includes the strangers among us, those who the world forgets, and those who are oppressed and marginalized. 

We watched with shock the evil and hateful speech and violent acts by white supremacy groups in Charlottesville this past weekend. These are attitudes and behaviors that violate the heart of the gospel—to love God and to love others.

We are called to love one other as God has loved us. If there is any question about what that looks like, it looks like the face of Jesus who spoke out for, spent time with, and cared for people on the margins of his day—those who were oppressed, women and immigrants and the poor, the weak and the powerless, and those who the world discarded or saw as “less than.” It looks like the face of Jesus who went to the cross for sinners like us—every one of us. 

As a Christian learning community, we must speak against words and actions that dehumanize, devalue, and disrespect individuals and groups of people—recognizing that we are all persons made in the image of God. When we do not treat others with love and respect or when we do not treat others as reflecting God’s image, we go against a core teaching of our faith. That must be confronted. 

It is clear that our communities, country, and world are deeply divided. As Christians, we must bring the message of the gospel through how we treat one another. We must work for justice and the dignity of all persons as we live out the great commandment to love God and our neighbors – neighbors both near and far.

At Bethel this year we will focus on how to have challenging conversations on issues that matter and on which Christians disagree—sometimes deeply. We’ll listen with the intent to learn and understand one another. And, we’ll reflect our commitment to Christ in how we treat one another. Our world is desperate for justice and healing and peace and we will work toward that end together.

In the journey with you,

Jay Barnes, president
Deb Harless, executive vice president and provost