By / Jun 19

Southern Baptists affirm that every life is worthy of protection, beginning with the unborn. We believe life begins at conception, and that abortion denies precious human lives both personhood and protection. Scripture is clear that every person is made in the image of God – including the unborn – and his knowledge of the unborn even precedes the creative act of conception (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:13).

Southern Baptists affirm that every human is created in the image of God. As stated in a 2021 resolution of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Bible “clearly and unequivocally affirms the sanctity of every human life made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27; 9:6), a truth to which Christians in every century have testified and are called to bear witness in every age and in every sphere of life; and Further, the Convention’s Baptist Faith & Message affirms that “children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord” and calls us to “speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.”

The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2023 removes all restrictions and limits on abortion, provides federal protection for pharmaceutical abortion, and allows for abortion up to the point of birth. Additionally, this bill removes all pro-life protections at the federal and state levels and eliminates a state’s ability to legislate on abortion by preventing government officials from interfering with any person providing or receiving abortion services. This bill also fails to protect American consciences and would force taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions.

Abortion is not healthcare. If human dignity is given to each person when created in the womb, then abortion is not only an assault on the image of God but also irreparable harm on a vulnerable life. We believe abortion denies precious human lives both personhood and protection, and therefore cannot be considered as healthcare.

The ERLC strongly opposed the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2023. This is one of the most pro-abortion bills to ever be considered, and we urge Congress to reject this harmful bill. It would put thousands of vulnerable, preborn lives at risk and steamroll over the consciences of millions of Americans who do not wish to be compelled to provide or pay for abortions.

By / Apr 6

I came across a Facebook “memory” a few days ago, reminding me of a sad and haunting Easter three years ago where, for the first time in our lives, we couldn’t leave our homes because a deadly virus was on the prowl. I recall the uncertainty and sadness of that moment. Yet, there was a sober confidence that Easter was just what we needed. 

I’m writing this with a similar sense of grief and sadness, lamenting so much brokenness. The recent Nashville mass shooting, so near to our family after having spent a decade in Music City, has left us aching for our friends and a community shattered by violence. 

It is finished

Holy Week exposes us to the full range of emotions, from the injustice and mob action that led to Jesus’ unjust death, to the grisly beating and inhumane crucifixion. Now a symbol of hope, the cross was originally an ignominious instrument of torture and death. And sitting at the foot of the cross was Mary, the mother who whispered her quiet acceptance back in Bethlehem, taking on the task of birthing and mothering the Son of God. Now she was at Calvary, gazing up at the disfigured face of her son, who, in his final words, cries, “It is finished.” 

What is finished? The long battle, predicted in Eden, where the seed of the woman and the seed of the serpent would violently clash. Sin, marbling its way into every aspect of human existence, ushered in death—of relationships, of intimacy with God, and much too often, death itself. We live in a violent world. What we feel right now, after Nashville, after war and disease and famine and natural disaster, is what they felt on Good Friday. 

It didn’t seem good in that moment. The disciples mostly ran, fearing for their lives, wondering if the movement they’d given their lives to support was a mirage. We would have run too. 

Yet we know that Good Friday was good because it really was finished. Jesus took on the Father’s wrath for sin, bearing the sins of the world—my sin, your sin. Satan, so falsely jubilant at Jesus’ last breath, was defeated. The Savior would walk out of his borrowed tomb three days later. 

Jesus’ resurrection is not just validation of his Messianic claims. It is. But it’s more than that. The empty tomb is a signal that this world, enmeshed in blood and death, is not all there is. Jesus’ resurrection rescues human hearts from the sin that leads us to turn in on each other, and his resurrection rescues human bodies from the ravages of the curse. Because he lives, we will also live. Because he lives, we can, as the hymn reminds us, face tomorrow with hope. 

Awaiting resurrection

This is why Holy Week is both grim and full of lament and also bright and full of joy. The horror of Calvary gave way to the hope of the empty grave, and the horror of our sinful world will, one day, give way to our own resurrection and the renewal of the world. 

So we grieve—deep, loud, anguished lament—at the death around us. But we grieve not as those who don’t have hope. Easter reminds us that Sunday is coming. A grave is empty. Jesus is alive. And we can be reconciled to the One who made us in his image. 

The truth of Easter empowers us in our in-between, as we await our final resurrection. It’s why we go out into the world and tell people—alienated from God, created for glory—that this is not all there is and that Jesus can make them new. There is another, better world coming. And it is why we go out into the world and come alongside the most vulnerable among us. We show the world a glimpse of God’s Kingdom. 

The resurrection is everything. Without it, Paul reminds us in 1 Corinthians 15, we have no hope. But, because Jesus is alive, at the right hand of the Father, we have a hope that cannot be shaken. In the midst of violence, in pandemics, in death, and in life, our Hope has a name and a glorified body that we will one day embrace for an eternity filled with joy .

By / Feb 24

Exactly one year ago, I was about to deliver remarks to a Southern Baptist meeting, when the news alerts lit up my phone. The long-predicted Russian invasion of Ukraine had commenced. Russian troops had initiated a new incursion deep into Ukraine’s heartland.

After I announced the development to the room, you could sense the audience was contemplating what this might mean for our nation, as well as what it meant for missionaries serving there and our Baptist national partners on the ground.

Points of clarity 

Twelve months later, many of those questions remain, though we do have clarity on several fronts. 

First, Ukrainians have made a valiant stand against their Russian aggressors. While they have sustained a barrage of attacks that have taken numerous innocent lives and demolished infrastructure throughout their country, many analysts have said the Russian military has taken far greater losses. Backed by an impressive array of support from America and European allies, Ukraine has been able to beat back an initial threat to its capital, Kyiv, and has even  retaken ground lost in its east. Few would have predicted this kind of result a year into the conflict.

Secondly, the Southern Baptist Convention has been engaged from both a ministry and advocacy standpoint throughout the year. Send Relief, the SBC’s compassion ministry, jumped into action to help Ukranians who flooded across national borders, fleeing from the war zone. They provided basic necessities and connected them with partners who could provide shelter. Estimates from Send Relief put the number of displaced Ukrainians around 15 million—the largest such crisis in Europe in generations. To meet the demand, Southern Baptists and our partners have given over $12 million through Send Relief.

Paul Chitwood, president of the International Mission Board, has made several trips to the region during the war. He’s visited Baptist churches in Romania and met with our missionaries who have offered input about what support is needed. In the U.S., the ERLC has advocated for Ukrainian refugees before the federal government to ensure they receive the support and asylum they need from the horrors back at home.

None of this response should be surprising. Baptists have long felt a calling to bring the good news to Ukraine and partner with the many Christians who call the nation home. As a result, an impressive network of Baptist churches, associations, and institutions are spread across the country. In some respects, a gospel bulwark has sprung up in Ukraine against the encroaching lostness that plagues so much of Europe. The solidarity and support expressed for the nation from Baptist communities in Romania, Moldova, and other nearby countries also demonstrates the key role Ukraine plays in the region.

Finally, this conflict is clearly driven by a vision to recapture the influence once held by the USSR and the appetite for conquest of one man: Vladimir Putin. The valiant stand of Ukraine and the incredible outpouring of support should not obscure the fact that the last year, under Putin’s direction, has been nothing short of hellish for Ukrainians. A bipartisan majority of American officials, reminiscent of the kind seen under the Reagan Doctrine—from President Joe Biden to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell—have rightly said Russia’s illegal and unjust invasion must be opposed and stopped.

Our European allies have resolutely said the same, knowing that a successful takeover of Ukraine by Putin won’t end there. Who knows how far he will go to restore a Soviet-like domination of Eastern Europe? We would do well to remember he has called the downfall of the USSR the greatest tragedy of the 20th century

Thinking about year two 

So what does this mean for us as we begin a second year of this war?

Unfortunately, as NPR put it in one of its articles this week, “more misery” is ahead. Russia seems unlikely to relent, and so Ukraine, justifiably, will continue fighting for its survival. Those of us outside the immediate theater of war will continue to feel ripple effects in terms of a refugee crisis and unexpected swings in the international economy. 

Western support, especially America’s resolve, will be tested in the coming months. At this point, the U.S. has provided $110 billion in military and economic aid to Ukraine, according to The Wall Street Journal. A number of voices, particularly in the political realm, are beginning to question the wisdom of providing that aid or whether it is being used properly.

As a matter of principle, I’m not opposed to scrutinizing how taxpayer resources are utilized. I’m a conservative in my philosophical and policy views. But in this instance, we know the answers. The Journal also indicates that the U.S. Inspectors General have assigned 177 auditors and investigators to track how these funds are deployed. Far from a “blank check,” these funds are being monitored closely to ensure they go to their intended objectives. If Putin accomplishes his aims and become an even larger threat to Europe, the long-term costs would be far greater. 

On a personal level, I have had individuals tell me I am taking an unbiblical view in my support for Ukraine, citing Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers.” I understand their critique. My response is, “Absolutely, I want peace. And, in this situation, I want an aspiring autocrat who attacked a peaceful democratic neighbor to pull back his forces.”

Given Putin is unlikely to be persuaded by such a statement, I believe our next best option is to support Ukraine’s defense while continuing to work all diplomatic avenues that lead to a resolution respecting Ukraine’s territorial sovereignty. This route promotes peace (Rom. 14:19) in the region while also ensuring innocent lives have the resources and support needed for protection.

Ultimately, that is my main concern. Putin’s invasion is nothing short of a grave injustice being perpetrated against those made in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27). Over the last year, we have witnessed the pummeling of a society and annihilation of innocent lives. Our hearts should break with every destructive blow. At a minimum, we should all pray for the Lord to turn Vladimir Putin from this wicked war and for his salvation. We should seek a day when the bombs, rockets, and artillery would fall silent. If our nation’s support for Ukraine helps make that a reality, we should, as the Baptist Faith and Message puts it, “do all in (our) power to put an end to war (Article XVI).”

By / Jan 27

We didn’t need to see it. 

The sorrow expressed by law enforcement officials. The pleas from community leaders to not riot in response. The labels of “appalling” and “inhumane” used to describe the footage. All of these comments told us what we were about to see would be revolting.

They were right.

Video footage from the brutal beating of Tyre Nichols during a police confrontation is now public. It ought to sicken all who care about the city or work for racial unity or simply seek the wellbeing of our neighbors.

It now sits before us. Enraging us. Dispiriting us. Condemning us. Challenging us. Even questioning us: asking what we intend to do about such an act of brutality.

Memphis has been asking itself that for weeks. The city has been on edge waiting for this moment. Colleagues in Memphis have described the palpable tension in the air. A close friend has been worried about his hometown for the last several weeks.

Officials have been quick to act. Last week, the police chief fired the officers involved in Mr. Nichols’ death, and, yesterday, their arrests were announced. Each of them was charged with murder, along with several other crimes. The breadth of the charges was another sign of the appalling nature of what took place during the arrest. 

Some will read about this case and say we cannot jump to conclusions. Others, upon learning that the officers involved were Black, will feel relieved, thinking that at least the racial element of a white officer and an unarmed Black man is absent from this tragedy. Still, others will think they are too far removed from Memphis to spend much time thinking about this.

But if you see this footage, all of that will fade away as you view the sheer horror inflicted upon Tyre Nichols.

I am stirred to anger because another life has been lost in this way. That the officers happened to be Black serves as confirmation that this is a systemic problem in our justice system requiring real reform. The distance of this atrocity does not matter, because my faith places no geographic qualification on who is my neighbor (Luke 10). We should pray, in this instance, that evil will be exposed in the course of the investigation and punished (Rom. 13).

The result of our collective devaluing of life

But as with other tragedies, deeper reflection is required.

There will be unhelpful voices which call us to ignore this as a single case of bad apples, already dealt with by a system working as it should. There will be those who call for radical proposals such as eliminating the police and defunding them, a proposal that ignores the very real benefit that officers and government bring when they are doing their duty to promote order and protect citizens from evildoers. Both of these extremes must be avoided if we are to address the real problems at this moment. 

No, the real solution for this actually goes beyond law enforcement. It calls us to consider both the societal and individual results of a culture of death.

It should be abundantly clear to all that we have witnessed a devaluing of human life across our society in nearly every sector. 

A nation that has so easily eradicated the unborn for generations spawns a culture where a man can be pulverized to death mere yards from his home by those who should be there to serve and protect. 

A nation that separates children from their mothers in the name of border security creates a culture where security officials eagerly take on the role of executioner without thinking to involve the judge and jury in the equation.

A nation that views elderly life as discardable enables a culture where no one dares to intercede as a bludgeoned man cries out for his mother in his final moments.

We should resist the temptation to decouple any of these things. They are all connected because they reveal that we do not fully see, fully appreciate, or fully comprehend the awesome responsibilities we have toward one another because each of us is made in the image of God (Gen. 1). This principle spans across fields of occupation. The doctor, the educator, and, yes, the law enforcement officer all have as much responsibility as every pastor and minister to see the inherent dignity and value the immeasurable worth of every individual.

When we fail to do so, it leads to tragedies like this in Memphis.

But it is precisely because of this city that I have some optimism that real action will come from this moment. The faith community there is strong––and resilient. They’ve faced adversity like few cities. The ministers of the gospel there have been forged in the fires of previous tragedy. There’s a bond that ties together the churches and ministries in Shelby County that I have personally witnessed and worked alongside. If there is any community that can come back from the devastation of this video, it will be Memphis.

We should pray for this outcome. We desperately need an example of the Church shepherding a community and leading broken, sin-torn hearts to the suffering Savior. And we need leaders and activists responding with real reforms that bolster the police force and work toward safer neighborhoods. This will ensure the weighty calling of protecting a community begins with the vital foundation that every person has value and will be treated accordingly throughout our justice system.

I long for a day when we have moved beyond events like this. Where every individual feels respected and protected by every officer of the law. The evidence that our culture has moved to a better place will be that life itself is seen as invaluable throughout our society.

We all should long and plead that God would usher in that day, because repulsive and heartbreaking videos like this are almost too much to bear. The grief is so heavy. It shows that day is very far off indeed, and that now is a time for weeping. 

By / May 9

Southern Baptists affirm that every life is worthy of protection, beginning with the unborn. We believe life begins at conception and that abortion denies precious human lives both personhood and protection. Scripture is clear that every person is made in the image of God — including the unborn — and his knowledge of the unborn even precedes the creative act of conception (Jeremiah 1:5; Psalm 139:13).

Southern Baptists affirm that every human is created in the image of God. As stated in a 2021 resolution of the Southern Baptist Convention, the Bible “clearly and unequivocally affirms the sanctity of every human life made in God’s image (Genesis 1:27; 9:6), a truth to which Christians in every century have testified and are called to bear witness in every age and in every sphere of life; and Further, the Convention’s Baptist Faith & Message affirms that “children, from the moment of conception, are a blessing and heritage from the Lord” and calls us to “speak on behalf of the unborn and contend for the sanctity of all human life from conception to natural death.”

The Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022 removes all restrictions and limits on abortion and allows for abortion up to the point of birth. Additionally, this bill removes all pro-life protections at the federal and state levels and eliminates a state’s ability to legislate on abortion. This bill also fails to protect the consciences of American taxpayers and would force taxpayer dollars to pay for abortions.

Abortion is not healthcare. If human dignity is given to each person when created in the womb, then abortion is not only an assault on the image of God but also irreparable harm on a vulnerable life. We believe abortion denies precious human lives both personhood and protection, and therefore cannot be considered as healthcare.

The ERLC strongly opposed the Women’s Health Protection Act of 2022. This is one of the most pro-abortion bills to ever pass the U.S. House of Representatives, and we urge the Senate not to pass this harmful bill. It would put thousands of vulnerable, preborn lives at risk and steamroll over the the consciences of millions of Americans who do not wish to pay for or be compelled to provide abortions.

By / Mar 1

We live in an age that values productivity. There is an entire cottage industry of books and resources to help us manage our time, organize our lives, and squeeze every last second out of the day. As a proponent of time management processes (though not always the best adherent), I find these useful tools. However, in our pursuit of doing more, we are often saying with our lives a lie that we would likely never utter with our lips: “I am god, and I am unlimited.” 

However, as theologian and author Kelly Kapic reminds us in his new book, You’re Only Human, our limits and dependencies are a good gift from God, not the result of the brokenness of the world. He was kind enough to join us for an interview to discuss the reality of our limits, our need for rest and humility, and why we struggle to see all of this as an essential and good part of our nature as created image-bearers.  

Alex Ward: Our limitations and finitude are something that you say we often run into through our encounter with the harsher parts of reality — a child’s sickness, an overwhelmed schedule, the loss of a job late in life — rather than an idea and concept that we meditate on as a comfort. Why is it that so often it takes these harsh moments for us to realize our limits?

Kelly Kapic: None of us would call ourselves ‘god,’ but when we start to explore our deepest assumptions and how we approach life, what we often find betrays hidden beliefs: we assume we are or at least should be in control. And that is how we try to conduct our lives. Until there is a serious problem, we tend to assume the problem is something we can solve, and so we just try harder, get more organized, and then we assume the challenge can be overcome.  

But often it is only when things start to fall apart that we realize we can’t make everything all right. As the curtain is lifted, if we have the courage, we start to realize how little we were ‘in control of’ in the first place. And it is during those times we finally start to consider our finitude.

AW: Especially in our current American context where we can have almost anything easily and quickly, why are limits a good thing? How do they help us see God better and our relationship to him? 

KK: Limits are a good thing because God created human creatures, and to be a creature is, by design, to have limits. Finitude doesn’t necessarily imply talk about death: it is just a fancy term that means we are limited by space, time, knowledge, power, etc. In my book, when I am talking about ‘finitude,’ I am talking about these limits. We have a particular body, a particular brain, we come from this family and not that one, we live here and not there, we have these neighbors and not those. All of those particulars situate us, both opening up opportunities for us but also making claims on us, inevitably limiting us in various ways.  

One of my concerns is that Christians have too often confused finitude with sin, and so we start to believe we must overcome all our limits. We feel guilty about our limits, treating them like sins that should be resisted and overcome.  

Without realizing it, this confusion often breeds unhealthy guilt among God’s people when we constantly feel that we should be doing more. Do we allow ourselves to go to bed at night knowing that in our smallness God has been honored and that he delights in us even in our small world? Put differently, does faithfulness require that we sign up for every legitimate volunteer opportunity, or attend every meeting, or give to every noble cause?  

Here is the big surprise: God created us as finite, which means we are made to be dependent.  Healthy dependence or interdependence is part of the good of God’s creation, not the fall. What sin does is distort and undermine healthy dependence, but it did not create it. The fact that we think of the word ‘dependence’ in purely negative terms says a lot about us as a culture and as individuals.  

AW” It’s not uncommon for people to create new schedules or plans at the beginning of the year to try and squeeze more time out of their day, whether that’s because they want to read more, workout more, or just spend more time with family. So how should Christians approach these productivity hacks and attempts to redeem their time? Is it ultimately just a futile quest?

KK: Personally, I love ‘to-do’ lists and ‘time management’ suggestions, but I also think they are dangerously seductive. And I think we need to be asking a different set of questions.

I am arguing that ultimately we are not dealing with a time management problem, but with a theological one. We have misunderstood God, how he created the world, and what he expects of us. Until we deal with this underlying problem, we will always feel exhausted, defeated, guilty, and frustrated. Sadly, the Church often tries to deal with these feelings in the same way as the world, through better “time management.”  

Even the language of ‘managing time’ or ‘organizing time’ often gives us a false sense of control. We can make plans, but actually time is not something we can control or manage. It is not within our power. This is why we — including me — get so easily angry when our perfectly planned productive days go sideways. Part of what happened is we imagined we had more control than we actually did, and until we are more honest about how these assumptions affect us, we won’t address the anger, frustration, and despair that so easily starts to permeate our lives because we are not ‘getting everything done.’

Without launching into a much larger discussion here, I will just give one suggestion: be more realistic. I know, for example, that my ‘to-do’ list for Monday is really not a to-do list for the day but will likely take me a week. When I don’t realize that, it easily produces what one writer calls ‘productivity shame.’ We set ourselves up for failure.  

As Christians, we don’t need to feel guilty about our limits, but we need to have the courage to be more honest about them. And that includes how much time is required by the relationships that God puts into our lives. We can’t do everything, nor does God call us to.  

Similarly, we should ask, in this particular season of life and in this particular place with my particular gifts and limits, what does faithfulness look like for me here and now? Try to be honest with yourself. It will take courage to allow yourself to do less.  

When we add too many things to our schedule and we are driven by productivity as our highest good, then we end up with little margin. And experience tells me that love takes place in those margins. Therefore, as Christians we need to slow down in order that you can be present and able to really love others as God gives opportunity. A test case: love inevitably makes demands, so when opportunities to love arise in our days, do we find ourselves getting bitter and angry inside, or grateful for a chance to care for another person?

AW: We live in a society that prizes individuality and the ability to present the best version of yourself, whether in business or social media or just personal interactions. But you remind us that humility should be central to how Christians interact in the world. Why do we need a theology of humility, especially now?

KK: I believe humility is central to a Christian vision and life. But, as I discuss in the book, I worry that we have too often built our understanding of humility on the foundation of sin, on the idea that we should be humble because we are sinners. While I think our sin does add weight to the call for us to be humble, I don’t think that is a good foundation for humility. And when we build humility on this as the foundation, we shouldn’t be surprised when we get so many unhealthy views of humility.

But biblically, we should be humble simply because this is a realistic recognition that we are limited creatures. Humility is the joyful affirmation of reality, the reality that as creatures we were always made to be dependent upon God, others, and the Earth. Even if there were no sin and fall, humans were to be humble. Humility both fosters worship of our Creator God, and it liberates people to delight in others without always having to compete with them. Humility doesn’t just say “I’m sorry,” but “how should I do this?” and “what do you think?” At its best, humility comes out in sincere questions and gratitude, not self-loathing.

AW: One element of our finitude that seems to create such tension is how we relate to time and the demands of our life. You note a helpful distinction between stress and anxiety. Especially with all the recent studies and reports about the overwhelming sense of anxiety that have been produced by the pandemic and our isolation, how should we think about these concepts? How should we respond to stresses in our lives?

KK: That is a great question. Since I can’t unpack this like I do in the book, I will just say that I think anxiety is often a distorted relationship to time. And so in order to address some of the deeper problems, we have to explore things like expectations. As I explore in the chapter on this topic, I came to believe that the way to navigate this high level of stress and anxiety is through a renewed appreciation for the ancient Hebrew understanding of the “fear of the Lord.” I will just say here, I think at its root this points us to the idea of learning to recognize God’s presence in our lives and in his world. He is always present, but do we recognize him? And I would connect learning to be present with God with learning to be more present with others — and I strongly think one of the reasons we have a rise in anxiety is related to our inability to be truly present with each other, even when we are physically together.

AW: In previous generations, if I wanted to learn something it might have taken weeks or months to get the right books and go through the right coursework, whereas now I can just google an answer. Similarly, I might have needed weeks for a package to arrive and now can have it in a matter of hours if I’m close enough to an Amazon hub. How has this distorted our understanding of the progressive and long-term process of God’s work in our lives?

KK: I think what you describe above is real and it does affect us. And when you put into that situation a Christian who recognizes the sins and weaknesses in our lives, we end up with a potent question: why doesn’t God just instantly change us, since he doesn’t want us to sin?  Behind these questions and concerns is often our sense that God wants us to be perfect immediately. And yet even in the creation narrative, God takes his time. He values process.  One day to the next, things unfold, build upon each other, grow and develop. God has always been comfortable with process, and we need to rediscover the good of process. This can significantly transform our Christian lives and give us a renewed sense of hope and courage. It really is true, he who began a good work in us will continue it to completion. And if he is okay with not instantaneously completing his work in us, then we should not lose heart that our growth often takes time.  

AW: If I’m looking to develop this proper theology of my limits, what are some practical steps that I can take? What is a good place to start? What practices can I build into my life to help with that? 

KK: In the last chapter I suggest four perspectives that can help us return to a healthier relationship with our limits: rhythm, vulnerability, gratitude, and rest. Obviously it takes me a long chapter to unpack these four, but let me just give a sentence or two for each.  

We would do well to learn to honor different seasons of life and adjust our expectations about what faithfulness looks like as we live within the rhythm of each season of life as we go through it. Being 18 is different from being 58, and having a newborn is different from being an empty nester; appreciating the rhythm of decades, years, months, and days can give us a healthier view of opportunities and limits.   

Cultivating an awareness of our vulnerability (which in the book I explain is different from being ‘fragile’) can help us learn to appreciate the healthiness of our dependence upon God, neighbor, and the earth. This helps us grow more comfortable in our relationships, admitting our needs as well as being more ready to offer our gifts for the good of others.

I believe we need to learn both lament and gratitude as expressions of our experience of the world and of our dependence on God in it. We can’t control everything, and so when tragedy, pain, and suffering happen, we should lament. But we can also learn to be grateful, not for evil, but for God’s presence and care which are always active. Rather than pick between lament and gratitude, we need both, sometimes simultaneously. And when we practice them, I think we end up with a healthier relationship to our own finitude and to God.  

Finally, rest. It was fun to talk about a theology of sleep in the book, and why sleeping can be an act of faith. Simply put, we can sleep because God never does. That can be especially hard for us when anxiety swirls all around us. It’s hard for me. I also encourage us to rediscover the joy of a regular day of rest, which is set aside for worship, a different pace, and a release from doing our normal labor. It has become radically countercultural to set aside one day in seven for this kind of rest, but this is fundamental to how God made us. This is not about unthinking conformity to a legal code; instead, God uses our worship and rest to root us more deeply in human flourishing and to give us a vision for life much greater than an endless list of to-dos.

By / Jan 18

Years ago, I was talking with a fellow Christian ethicist about various aspects of social ethics (moral reflection on societal, structural, and communal issues) and it struck me that he never spoke much about the doctrine of the imago Dei, or the image of God, as central to the Christian ethic. I pressed in a bit on why he didn’t seem to emphasize it, and he responded that the Bible simply doesn’t really speak of it much and that when it does it mainly focuses on how Christ is the perfect image of God (Col. 1:15-17). To my surprise, he did not see the doctrine as the primary force behind the moral vision of the Church.

I never really heard much about the image of God even though I grew up around the church. I learned about the horrors of abortion and the call of the Church to care for “the least of these” no matter how small (Matt. 25:40), but it was never talked about in light of the image of God. However, from my earliest memories, there was an understanding that there was something unique about humanity, that my neighbors were to be valued above the rest of creation, and that all of our lives had some deeper purpose and meaning. Even without the language of the imago Dei, it was clear to me and my church that every human life was sacred and worthy of respect.

What does it mean to be made in the image of God?

The Dutch Reformed theologian and ethicist, Herman Bavinck, writes in volume one of his Reformed Ethics, “Without the Bible, it is impossible to answer the question of where human beings are from, and thus no answer can be given to the questions of what they are or where they are headed: one can only surmise, suspect, presuppose, and philosophize” (35). As I teach in my worldview analysis courses, this question of what it means to be human and where we are headed takes center stage in ethical formation because these types of questions are on the heart of every human being, whether they are vocalized or even consciously asked.

So what does it mean to be human? Or, to ask it in light of the Christian ethic, what does it mean to be made in the image of God? Genesis 1 tells us that after God created the entire world, including plant and animal life, he created humanity as man and woman. Furthermore, he made them distinct from everything else that he had made because he created them in his image and after his likeness (Gen. 1:26–28). This was declared “very good” after the rest of creation was simply called “good.” Acts 17:28 even reminds us that we — not other parts of his creation — are God’s offspring.

One of the theological debates that has garnered much attention throughout Church history is what it actually means to be created in the imago Dei. Is the image simply some trait or substantive aspect of us like our ability to reason? Is it simply our capacity for having a relationship with God and others? Or is there some type of functional or representational aspect to the image of God that humanity bears? While there are countless resources on those questions and emphases, two things are clear from Scripture: God made humans unique and distinct from the rest of creation, and we must seek to understand the One we are made to reflect in order to grasp what the imago Dei means.

The truth that we are made in the image of the Triune God reveals to us that all human life has value and dignity because we are defined in relation to our infinite Creator, not by our abilities or contributions to society, as is the popular belief in the prevailing utilitarian or consequentialist ethic of the day. As Carl F.H. Henry puts it in his Christian Personal Ethics, our “dignity is derived from the Divine purpose in creation and redemption” (149).

The image of God and Christian ethics

Being created in God’s image is something that should drive all of our moral actions due to the dignity and infinite value of every person. Our dignity is not based on our abilities, gifts, or even perceived usefulness to society. Nor is our standard of ethics based simply on what we want but on what God has specifically revealed to us as his unique image bearers. Bavinck describes this in Reformed Ethics by saying, “We can only be truly good at home, in the public square, and everywhere else, when we are the image of God” (42-43). Because without a proper understanding of who we are, we simply cannot grasp God’s design for us nor honor him in the ways we live.

The imago Dei also sheds light on our moral accountability and agency as God’s creatures. Humanity is uniquely designed and accountable to God, even if we try to deny that reality with our beliefs or actions. As much of modern ethics is rooted in the idea of the autonomous man, the Christian ethic reminds us that we exist in a relationship of total dependence upon God. Henry reminds us that as opposed to non-Christian ethics, the Christian ethic “speaks directly to man the moral agent who is lost in sin and accountable to a Holy God” (160). Without a proper understanding of the imago Dei, no one can actually do good regardless of how much one tries because we do not define the standard of what is truly good (Romans 3:10-12). Everything about our lives — including our ethic — must be rooted in this doctrine since it defines our entire existence before God as individuals living in community with others.

As the basis for human dignity in the Christian moral tradition is rooted in the very image of God, we must see that this belief extends well beyond the personal and to every aspect of life. This is the reason that Baptists and many others are so passionately pro-life and march to defend the rights of the pre-born today. We advocate on behalf of the pre-born because of their infinite value as image-bearers. We care for vulnerable women because they too are unique image-bearers of God. We fight for justice because all people are image-bearers. We advocate for the humane treatment of immigrants, refugees, and even people around the world under repressive authoritarian regimes because they too are image-bearers of the almighty God. 

By / Sep 28

When news from the Middle East and Near East regions of the world begin to fill my screen, there’s one reporter that I want to read: Mindy Belz. 

I’ve known about her work as an editor and war correspondent with WORLD magazine for over 15 years, but her 2016 book, They Say We Are Infidels, was instrumental in shaping the way I understand this part of the world, revealing its rich Christian history. Her relationships with international churches and believers have provided her decades of insight into these predominantly Muslim parts of the world. 

As Christians in the West consider today’s international crises, as well as reflect on the impact of 9/11 20 years ago, Belz shines a light on both the histories and cultures of these far-off nations, shares her reasons for going into hard places, and points us to the eternal things that should guide our lives.

Jill Waggoner: Can you help us zoom out and understand the cultural landscape of the Middle East and the significance of Afghanistan?

Mindy Belz: Afghanistan commonly gets lumped into the Middle East because of the wars after 9/11, but it’s technically considered part of the wider Near East or Central Asia. That’s important, because Afghanistan is somewhat of a bridge. It has a lot of the Islamic elements that have bedeviled the United States and the Middle East (in Lebanon with Hamas and Iraq with al-Qaida and ISIS). But it also has this history of being under the thumb of the Soviet Union. The Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 1979 and subsequent occupation set the stage for the American engagement there. It began as a Cold War engagement, and then it moved into what we know today, an engagement over terrorism that had its base in Afghanistan. That history is significant to how it came onto the American radar, but of course, 9/11 propelled it there to stay. 

I traveled to Sudan in 1998, 1999, and in June of 2001. Sudan was engaged in this war that pitted Christians in the South versus Muslims in the North. It was a precursor to what we would see after 9/11. Christians have been like a footnote in these conflicts, and yet, to me, they were an important piece because what Christians experience is often a precursor to what the entire population is going to face. When we look at the war that was happening in Sudan in the 1990s, we see this dramatic and atrocious conflict between a jihadist government in the North and the Christian population in the South. That set a pattern for what we saw repeated in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, where this concept of “conquering infidels” came into play with really deadly force. 

JW: How did 9/11 change U.S. engagement in this region of the world?

MB: It had been a Cold War engagement up until that point, very much based on our national interests in keeping dominance over the Soviet Union, Russia, and its breakaway republics after the fall of the Berlin Wall. 9/11 changed it dramatically because then it became about U.S. survival. It was an attack on the U.S. homeland. Nothing like that had happened in modern memory. It was no longer war at a remove; it was war up close. 

Significantly, that moment built on the Cold War alliances. NATO, within days after 9/11, invoked Article 5. This was the first time in its history, putting NATO on a war footing in support of the United States. Among the victims of 9/11, there were more than 90 nations represented. We had tremendous international support for our response to it.  

JW: How would you help a younger audience think about 9/11?

MB: 9/11 is possibly the largest event of the century and certainly one of the landmark moments in U.S. history. 

It is important to go beyond the headlines and the 10-minute recap you see on the news. You can visit the 9/11 Memorial & Museum site or go to the museum and see the names. It’s such a powerful reminder of the ordinariness of the people who died. They had no intention of stepping into a war zone when they were going to work that day. I would encourage anyone to read some of the original sources on the 9/11 Museum site. Find the 911 calls on YouTube. Not everyone wants to go down that road, but I think it’s valuable to get a real sense of what people went through.

It is also important to generally appreciate what the terrorists’ goals were. I’ve had the 9/11 Commission Report on my shelf at the ready for years. It is a thick book, but mine is so well thumbed now. Parts of it read like a novel. It helps you understand all the players and what was happening from the FBI, CIA, and military standpoint. You understand what was happening in Washington and New York. It describes what ​​al-Qaida was planning and the hijackers’ stories leading up to that day. Original sources are what we have to rely on, especially as we see misinformation surface. 

I’ve [also] really enjoyed reading about the millennials whose whole generation has been shaped by how our country changed after 9/11. I have much encouragement and hope as I see how many of my children’s peers committed themselves to military service or aide or nongovernmental organizations. When I covered the refugee crisis, I saw many 20- and 30-somethings that dropped everything to help these refugees coming across the Mediterranean. That defines the generation to me. I have great hope because of how this generation has been shaped by really sobering, hard events. 

JW: How would you encourage the Western church to think about and understand the Christian church in the Middle and Near Eastern parts of the world?

MB: I went to Iraq to cover the war early on and discovered the Christians along the way. There was this rich history there outside of what many think of as the Holy Land. I was going in churches that were built in the 300s. Their liturgy was in Aramaic. They were holding on to traditions because they were precious to them, not because they were following rote tradition. Everywhere I went, I was having my own presuppositions exploded. 

I met people whose resilience drew me to them. They had a patience about the Christian conflict with Islam and a determination about it that seemed to be lacking in the American public. The U.S. eventually wanted to turn away from the conflict and commitments in Iraq, as we are seeing now in Afghanistan. One of the reasons these wars have ended in such disarray and with such tragic consequences is that we never engaged them on the terms in which we said we were. We failed to understand that this is an age-old conflict. We failed to look at the really good examples of how people from outside of Islam have engaged with Islam.

On my journeys, I [saw] great examples of people coexisting and also being great witnesses, and in some cases being martyrs. The Old English definition of a martyr is a witness. They were being martyrs on a daily basis, and sometimes with their own lives, in order to stand and to give testimony to the Muslims that they lived alongside. 

JW: Recently, my 10 year-old son got in my car as I was listening to the news. He asked what it was, and I told him. As I turned it off he said, ‘Why are you listening to that? Aren’t bad things happening?’ I wondered how you would answer that question. In a world where ‘bad things’ are happening, why should we pay attention?

MB: Because the love of Christ compels us to. We can all have a sense of discouragement and helplessness in the face of any days’ bad news, but we know Christ came to enter into bad news, bringing life and the good news of the gospel. 

Our life in the United States gives us so much material comfort and grace that we lose sight of the consummation of all things. We might be tempted to think that the consummation is like our day to day: the sun shining, peace with our neighbors, a grocery store nearby. Our current reality dulls our sense that there is a future — where Christ is reigning and has reconciled all things under his feet — that is beyond what we can imagine right now. We can be tempted to lose sight of that chapter of the gospel narrative. I have a sense that the Christians who went before me had a much clearer view of what is to come that compelled them through the hard things of any day. 

JW: Many people have had trauma in the last two years. I imagine that your journeys have allowed you to see things that I’ve never seen, creating difficulties for you on a personal level that might extend beyond the experience. Do you have a personal word for those who are dealing with trauma? 

MB: It is definitely a real thing and something that I’ve struggled with from time to time. I have faced life and death moments. Because I’m still here after those moments, I can say they propel us to the feet of Christ and into the arms of God. 

Sometimes I dread going into a place where there’s a lot that’s unknown. There also have been times where I felt like I knew the situation, but when I was walking down the street, I could feel the tension and feel how much things had changed. This happened to me in 2019 in Syria, and I knew I was not in a safe place. Within 30 minutes, a bomb went off right across the street from me. I’ve been in moments where all I know to do is pray and trust that God has me where he wants me. That might be a place of death or a place of witness — seeing something that’s really, really hard. 

I come back to this fraternity that we have with Jesus. In those moments, we see in a new way what he endured, and what he was willing to endure, for us. We also see our own weaknesses and shortcomings. We’re brought face to face with the fact that we’re not Jesus. We quake and have fear and sometimes we run away, and that’s okay to do. 

The only way I know to process those things is in community. The community that I have with my husband, first of all, is the only reason that I have been able to continue this work — his support, patience, and willingness to hear the things [I’ve experienced]. Also, I process with my church community, pastors, and friends who are good counselors. We have to process these things in community, but we also have to process them as a way of recognizing our weakness and the profound sacrifice that Jesus made. 

By / Jul 22

Every person reading this is a human being. But what does that actually mean? “Human dignity” is a term used by Christians (and non-Christians) in policy conversations about a vast array of topics including poverty alleviation, humanitarian aid, abortion, and euthanasia. As Christians, we believe that God creating humankind in his image means that every person possesses an inherent and inalienable dignity. In other words, every human life is precious because every life belongs to a person who bears God’s image. Because of the value and preciousness of each life, it is vital that we develop a clear biblical understanding of what a human is and what the image of God implies. 

What is a human?

Our culture has wrongfully placed the responsibility of defining personhood onto individuals instead of our Creator, who, as “the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End” (Rev. 22:13), has the rightful authority to define our being. Claiming false authority over personhood has led to broken families, distorted views of sexuality, and heinous acts such as abortion in our society. Thankfully, through the creation account, the Bible helps us understand specific ways human beings are set apart from the rest of creation. Though faithful scholars differ in certain respects about exactly what it means to be made in God’s image, below you’ll find three characteristics about humanity that are clearly implied by the opening section of Genesis. 

1. Humans are relational

“Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Gen. 1:26)

When God created mankind, he did so as a Trinity of three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. God created us to live in community with him and with one another, reflecting his relational nature. As one God in three persons, God is relational by nature. Similarly, humans are made to operate in relationships. This is precisely what God emphasizes when he creates Eve to live in union with Adam and says, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Gen. 2:18). 

Through the blood of Jesus, God invites us into fellowship with the divine Trinity. John writes in 1 John 1:3, “Indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ.” God’s heart for relationships is further revealed in the New Testament when he establishes the familial nature of the church, encouraging believers throughout the New Testament to “devote themselves to fellowship,” to “have one heart and one mind,” to “bear one another’s burdens,” and to “love one another with brotherly affection” (Acts 2:42; 4:32; Gal. 6:2; Rom. 12:10).

2. Humans are distinct/unique

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them” (Gen. 1:27). 

In creating us, God not only gave us the ability to love and enjoy companionship with one another and himself, but he also made us distinct in two ways. First, as mentioned above, mankind is made in God’s image. And from Genesis, we learn that human beings are distinct because we are the only part of God’s creation that he specifically made in his image. 

Second, God made us distinct in terms of biology. As Genesis 1:27 tells us, God designed us as either male and female. These distinctions in biological sex are apparent in many ways, including our DNA and external features. Each sex is unique, and various aspects of God’s nature are displayed in both men and women. Ultimately, these distinctions are an important part of the mystery of the gospel, particularly when they are on display in a one flesh union between a husband and a wife. 

As the New Testament explains, the male and female marriage relationship is a picture of Christ’s love for the church. Paul writes of the mysterious, holy complexity of the marriage relationship in Ephesians 5:32: “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh. This mystery is profound, but I am speaking about Christ and the church.” Long before Christ’s incarnation, God purposefully created humanity as male and female and designed the marriage union to display truths about himself. 

Biological sex in every individual is one aspect of God’s design that proclaims his creativity and gives us a clearer picture of his image. The distinct features each human bears remind us that no life is ever interchangeable, replaceable, or worthless.

3. Humans are commissioned

God blessed them and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it; rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air and every creature that crawls upon the earth” (Gen. 1:28). 

Every person has a designated role as a steward and cultivator over the earth. God gave Adam a job: to have children, to subdue the ground, and to rule over the other living creatures. Each of us can subdue, or tame, the earth through all kinds of vocations, but this command reveals that God has designed a place and a purpose for each of us (Eph. 2:10). God has included in our makeup the ability to procreate, desires and determination to care for and protect our families — with specific callings designed for husband and wife — to produce things that are good and useful, and to assert leadership in various settings. In order to preserve ourselves and care for loved ones, we employ different gifts and talents that add value to the world and subsequently seek the good of our neighbors. 

God sets his image-bearers above creation and other created beings in giving us vocations. Adam Smith’s The Wealth of Nations is widely taught and accepted, observing the phenomenon of trade as an obvious outlier from the way animals relate. Smith is merely observing what has been woven into creation — God has uniquely commissioned his image-bearers to work and care for his good creation, and even the marketplace puts his creative design on display.

Conclusion

The special care God took in setting humans apart from other created beings is why a Christian understanding of human dignity is important when considering issues of justice. Slavery, genocide, abortion, and exploitation of all kinds are tragic displays of treating other humans as utilities. But God’s unmistakable genius in each of our bodies, minds, hearts, and personalities denies any attempt to devalue a human’s worth. These practices are considered “inhumane” because they treat people as a means to an end, more like subordinate animals than respected brothers and sisters.

As Christians, we must defend the vulnerable on the grounds that humans are image-bearers; there is no amount of privilege or power that makes a man or woman more or less valuable. Physical distinctions are often a barrier to relationships and an excuse for sinful and exploitative uses of authority, but the Bible makes no distinction when it comes to a person’s value; every person bears the imago Dei, and every person matters.

When God finished creating heaven, earth, and us, he called his masterpiece “very good” (Gen. 1:31). Long ago, God defined our worth so sinful humans wouldn’t be responsible for determining the value of a life. From conception to death, humans have dignity, eminence, and significance because we are the only creatures God made in his image. We may not understand the full picture of the imago Dei until we are face to face with God in heaven, but we do see God’s image reflected in how humans are relational, distinct, and commissioned.

By / May 3

If you’ve not heard the word “neurodiversity” yet, you might soon — and I trust your life will be richer for it. Neurodiversity identifies people whose brains and bodies process information differently than much of the population. 

The fall of mankind means that we live in a world where our bodies and brains don’t function perfectly. Even though that is the case, the dignity of all humans as image-bearers of our triune God should still be affirmed and celebrated within the body of Christ. So why does it feel like many of us have been waiting too long to hear the church speak to these issues in a meaningful way?

We’ve been trained to see diagnoses like ADHD, autism, dyslexia, or sensory processing disorder as purely deficit-based, measuring people negatively against a set of normal brain functions. But advocacy on the part of neurodiverse people themselves is beginning to flip the script. And fortunately, our society is beginning to see the value of people with neurological variations instead of seeing those people as problems. For Christians, this is welcomed news. We, of all people, should be able to see the beautiful way that God uses us in the midst of our challenges, difficulties, and sufferings.

Looking for love in unfamiliar places

Author, hip hop artist, Christian, and autism advocate Sho Baraka raps in a verse of Propaganda’s “I Ain’t Got An Answer” and captures the tension of life in a neurodiverse household as a parent of two sons diagnosed with autism:

It’s apparent sometimes I think I’ve failed as a parent. 
And my son having autism is rough.
But maybe he don’t speak cuz words don’t say much.

Maybe he don’t need words to communicate his love.
And sometimes his silence causes me to stumble.
It’s possible he’s a version of me that’s more humble.
And I think my child finds more joy in playin with my phone,Than playin’ on his own.
Will he shed a tear when I’m gone?
I’m wrestling with the shame of an outsider view of me,
Cause life is the spotlight on my own insecurities.
But I know his laugh, it lights up a thousand rooms.
And when he speaks to me it just like a flower blooms.

Baraka has shared publicly about how initially he didn’t want to disclose his boys’ diagnosis, wrestling with the world’s expectations of his boys and of him as a parent. Once he used his platform to share his family’s story, though, he said he received hundreds of notes from others saying he made their family feel represented.

Similarly, in his new book, Disability and the Church, Atlanta pastor Lamar Hardwick recalls a dual reaction when he shared his diagnosis and changed his Facebook page to “The Autism Pastor.” Being honest about his autism with his congregation opened the door for many families who — seeing the label — felt comfortable going to his church because they knew they would be cared for and prayed over, and that their worth would be acknowledged by “having a seat at the table.” While Hardwick says he respects people’s right to disclose or not disclose their diagnosis, he has been hurt by other Christians who indicated it would be better for him as a leader not to identify so freely as someone with autism.

Hardwick knows firsthand that “families and individuals with special needs don’t need us to rush them through the valley. They need us to walk with them slowly and deliberately . . . . Good shepherds go at a pace that works best for their flock.” 

I can attest from my own experience that the pastors who best understand my sister (who is neurodiverse) are the ones who themselves have children with disabilities. The level of patience and kindness they demonstrate is always from a place of knowing. I’ve also seen too often that such empathy is a rare commodity in the church. 

What can you do? 

If families with special needs are the most underrepresented demographic in the church, how can churches reach out to, get to know better, or shepherd neurodiverse families? Here are a few suggestions.

1. Don’t pathologize — Do some research

Neurodiversity is not one-size-fits-all and doesn’t necessarily always come with an official diagnosis. Spend time listening to neurodiverse people and reading some books on the subject.  You may be surprised to find out just how inaccurate and hurtful some ideas you have about ADHD (“That just means he’s hyper all the time”), autism (“Oh, he’s like Dustin Hoffman in Rainman, right?”), dyslexia (“She’s just a slow reader”) are — let alone the pain that comes with dismissal (“Those aren’t real problems; it’s all overdiagnosed”). 

If you have a friend who has been diagnosed (or perhaps their child or a relative has), ask if they are comfortable sharing. If so, ask what things they enjoy about themselves and about neurodiversity in everyday life. Read websites from autistic people, people with ADHD, or dyslexia, and you will see that every story is unique.  

Several churches in my hometown of Chattanooga have “buddy programs” or “parents’ night out” to help make care and love for special needs families part of the regular ministry of the church. They want to be known as families who open their arms to serve others who otherwise might be overlooked, and then retain them as valued members. If Christians take the time to think through their social networks (school, neighborhood, workplace, sports leagues, etc.), they might recognize that they actually know several neurodiverse people. Are we seeking out them out for community within the body of Christ, or do we see them as an inconvenience or “high-maintenance” relationships to be avoided?

2. Support and accept them like Jesus would

When I think back to some of the trauma my sister endured in public schools in the early 1990s because of her neurodiversity and other special needs, the church was often one place my family could count on to go and have people support them. Thankfully, my sister’s behavior was not always a barrier for inclusion. Yes, she might talk your ear off about snakes, medical news, or whatever she had just learned about, and her volume might be louder than you anticipated for a conversation, but everyone knew how much she loved coming to spend time with the body of Christ every week. 

To this day, people from the churches my family has been part of still take my sister to run errands or to her various volunteering jobs because she cannot drive. Neighbors ask her to dogsit. She has tutored children at the local elementary school. She longs for a reason to get up in the morning, and Christian community is one of the few places where her dignity is actively being restored.   

3. Advocate for neurodiversity in your church 

If a member of your church is chronically misunderstood because of their behavior, don’t let others ridicule them or make jokes at their expense. If someone has an nontraditional idea or suggestion about ministry and shares it with church leadership, leaders should pause and ask themselves why they are uncomfortable with the out-of-the-box thinking or inconvenience before they say no. 

Neurodiverse people are very aware of power dynamics because too many are used to having their actions misinterpreted by those in authority. Youth leaders need to be especially vigilant and proactive about advocating for inclusion where possible by educating parents and children on issues of disability and acceptance. 

The easiest way to advocate for neurodiversity is to encounter it from an asset-based approach — ask what strengths the person brings to the church body before asking what they may lack.

Three years ago, my husband and I joined a new church to be closer to home. One of the big draws there was the wide range of neurodiversity represented in the congregation. Parents were open about their children and diagnoses, including our pastor’s son. It has been a major encouragement to see our daughter, who is diagnosed with ADHD, feel represented and understood by other parents and peers when she comes to church. This gives me hope that others will see that kind of inclusion as foundational to the church’s mission, and I pray that the Lord will give us his heart for those the world often leaves out.