A recent conference at Calvin Theological Seminary gave some of the seminary's new faculty members a chance to join a well-known Reformed theologian in connecting their areas of expertise to the ministry of the church.
The conference, called "Loving Your Neighbor Today: The Second Great Commandment in Today's World," explored different dimensions of hospitality and empathy in challenging situations.
Each speaker urged listeners to see their neighbors not as an abstract category or political issue, but to look for the specific qualities in and humanity of their neighbors.
"We need to see around us real people with specific names, specific histories, specific hopes and fears," said Richard Mouw, former professor at Calvin College and president emeritus of Fuller Seminary.
Mouw, the keynote speaker, set the tone for the conference with wisdom and warmth as he challenged listeners to practice bold compassion.
"To love God is to love what God loves, to take delight in what God delights in, to grieve what God grieves," Mouw said.
Joining Mouw were Calvin Seminary faculty members who addressed a range of topics, including reaching out to interfaith neighbors, neighbors with dementia, and neighbors suffering from trauma.
Speakers included Amanda Benckhuysen, associate professor of Old Testament; Danjuma Gibson, associate professor of pastoral care; Cory Willson, the Jake and Betsy Tuls associate professor of missiology and missional ministry, and Mary Vanden Berg, professor of systematic theology and associate academic dean. Mariano Avila, professor of New Testament, preached on compassion in the gospels at the conference's worship services.
Video recordings of each session and additional resources are available at www.calvinseminary.edu/neighbor.
"I need to see my neighbor as a person who is like me, made in the image of God, with joys and disappointments and needs," said Benckhuysen, speaking on love and hospitality in the Old Testament.
"Loving others is central to our life as the people of God. As God pours his love into us, we pour love into the world."
Attendees came to the conference from six states in the U.S. and three provinces in Canada. Many said they were challenged and uplifted by the conference's theme and the way each speaker addressed it.
"I found new zeal and encouragement to pursue challenging relationships even though they take time," wrote one attendee on a closing survey.
"Neighbors are not always people we expect them to be," another wrote. "We might not be drawn to them at first but God puts them in our paths. We need to look for God’s best in other people.”