#reHumanize Project: Chelsea Stone

We’re honored to be able to tell the story of Nazarene student, Chelsea Stone, as part of the Black Stories series in our #reHumanize Project.

My name is Chelsea Stone. I am an Indigenous, white, and Black woman in the US – mixed raced. However, I mainly identify as Black because that is not only my culture, but the community where I feel most at home. I grew up in Salem, Oregon – a predominately white, conservative, suburban bubble. I currently attend MidAmerica Nazarene University, after spending two years at Trevecca Nazarene University, and will be completing my Interdisciplinary degree in Intercultural Studies and Sociology in the Spring of 2021.

I am a bold, outspoken, vivacious, loving, confident, straight-forward, empowering, strong, never-afraid-of-a-challenge, Black woman, and you best believe I’m proud.

As a Christian, I believe in a God that lifts up the oppressed and a Gospel that holds a message of anti-racism.

I believe in a God who fights for immigrant men, women, and children, Indigenous peoples, and refugees.

I believe in a God who fights for Black people who have been oppressed by the hands of racism for hundreds of years, and I believe this because I must believe in a God who fights for me.

I believe in a God who fights for Black people who have been oppressed by the hands of racism for hundreds of years, and I believe this because I must believe in a God who fights for me.

In my 21 years of living I have experienced and seen more racism from Christians than people from any other faith tradition or lack thereof.

I have observed how white Christians coped with their racism and the reality that Black and Brown people are created equal in God’s eyes by way of selective “color-blindness” (refusing to see the color of Black and Brown “friends” as to not treat them less-than but being actively racist towards Black and Brown strangers—ironic in itself as refusing to see color strips Black and Brown people of an intricate part of who they are).

I have been the victim of the “aggressive/malicious” Black girl narrative and have often had to have my white counterparts speak my words for me in order for my ideas to be considered valid.

I have had my identity stripped from me and not seen wholly because white people refuse to acknowledge Blackness because of their own fear and prejudice.

I have seen the photos of my Black family; the photos they took as they were slaves in the South.

I have seen the photos and read the history of my community, the photos of them being lynched, put into zoos, photos of their heads scalped, bellies cut, babies stomped on, teeth pulled out, and backs brutally torn from being whipped.

I have had people come touch and pet my hair like I am a petting zoo animal.

I have seen Black friends struggle to accept and embrace their Blackness because of a society that perpetuates a message that equates “white” with beauty, elegance, and well-read and “Black” with ugly, uneducated, illiterate, deadbeat, lazy, and aggressive.

I have been called racial slurs, dehumanized, and had my dignity stripped from me until I felt naked and alone.

And yet, the most angering and disappointing thing of all is this: watching my closest friends, peers, and members of the Church remain entirely silent on the issue of racism in such a time as this. I, and other Black men, women, and children, have experienced too many moments where our dignity and humanity was stripped of us or questioned, and some of us have not lived to tell the tale.

The reality is this, we will continue to experience these moments if this movement does not transcend beyond the last two weeks and into the days forward.

Now, I am addressing the Church here in saying that there is a disconnect between the mission of the people of God and anti-racism. Whether it is from the “color blindness” rhetoric and teaching the Church picked up to cope with racism, or the lack of conversation around the sin of racism is not something I would like to get into.

But I do want to say this: anti-racism is a part of the holistic living we are called to in our spiritual life. We believe in a God who is bold. A God whose love is living and moving, not passive. A God who loves holistically, encompassing all of who we are, not just parts. A God who remains present and wrestles with us.

In our profession as the people of God, I believe our heart’s desire and mission is to not just receive this love but to exhibit it. A love that moves boldly in pursuit of what is good, true, right. A love that challenges us to wrestle with our innermost shortcomings. A love that prompts us to live in a holistic way in which our prayers, laments, commitments, and praises are not merely one moment in time, but parts of a whole.

What I am saying is this: Enough is enough. It is time for the Church, the people of God, to remember their mission. It is time for the people of God to listen to the cries of Black people. It is time for our prayers to be more than words spoken, but actions carried out because we are living holistically with the Gospel. It is time that your prayers for the oppression of the Black community to end be followed through by a dedication to be anti-racist.

I believe in and serve a God who is good, holistically loving, and just. And I must believe that God is these things because I must believe in a God who sees me, hears me, walks with me, and fights with me.

#reHumanize Project

#reHumanize Project: How the Church Growth Movement Nearly Killed the Church

There is no singular reason for the deep division that besets our nations and our churches. However, in many ways, the church is reaping what it sowed through some of the principles of the church growth movement, namely the homogenous unit principle.

This principle asserts that, since people are most comfortable being with people just like them (who share affinities, interests and demographics) we can most effectively grow churches by helping people feel the most comfortable.

This is an oversimplification in practice, of course, but this thread ran deep in evangelical circles. The fruit of this, then, has shown us to be more segregated than ever, from race to age, from political party and socio-economic class to music style.

The recovery will be long and difficult. However, through the power of the Holy Spirit and her wisdom, the church can and must work redemptively to repair these breaches. It will take intentionality and it may be painful. But we must remember both our shared humanity and divinity, best expressed in the unity found only in our diversity.


#reHumanize Project: Seeing the “Me” Behind the Memes by Gaby Johnson

This blog post is part of a recurring series called the #reHumanize Project, an initiative by Nazarenes United for Peace that seeks to help us rediscover our shared, divine humanity.

It’s hard to remember that there is a living person behind that twitter handle, isn’t it? People are reduced to avatars and screen names and we forget our humanity. I tend to be much snarkier with a short, 10 word comment on Facebook than I would ever be in person.

Gaby helps us think about this phenomenon and how we can better #reHumanize one another in our digital spaces. I’m grateful for her contribution to our project.

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replace “students” with “all of us” and it might fit

I have many friends on my virtual friend list with whom I disagree politically and in other areas. I bet you do, too. Several of them are also friends in “real” life – people I worship, work, and homeschool with. 

And I would tell you that I don’t mind that we disagree, that I can handle people having a different opinion or perspective than mine. At least that’s what I thought.  

But then I began to take a closer look at what was truly taking place in my heart: 

One day my friend John* posted an angry and lengthy status about how people who are on welfare are lazy and simply don’t want to work. 

Later my friend Jessica excitedly shared a link inviting evangelicals to contribute money to build “The Wall.” 

Then my friend Mark put an offensive meme on his wall poking fun at “those hypocritical, narrow-minded Christians.” 

Because I have strong personal ties to and opinions about all of those issues: each article, status, and meme hurt and angered me. I felt disappointed by my friends and wondered how I didn’t know these things about them. I promised myself that I would erase them from my list of friends, virtually and physically.  

“I am done with ‘those’ people!” I fumed. Who could blame me? We disagreed fundamentally on issues dear to my heart in ways I felt were insurmountable. How could I possibly be in relationship with people who, in my mind, were so awful? 

However, the truth is that I was viewing people through the narrow, insufficient lense of social media. I was using that one post, that one shared article, that one meme to measure the whole of a person. I was willing to vilify and discount those friends as “all bad” or “all wrong” and I was prepared to discard them from my life. 

However, my perspective was soon challenged when I spent an afternoon working with John on a church service project and I saw how tenderly he spoke to the homeless people we were serving. He treated them with such dignity and I remembered that he has a heart full of compassion that breaks at the sight of pain. 

And then I went to a party thrown by the Hispanic congregation of our church and I watched Jessica rock the babies, play with the children, and laugh with the teenagers of the very people she wants to help keep out with her money. I remembered that she loves everyone in her sphere of influence with great generosity.  

I overheard Mark passionately defend a Christian friend we have in common to a co-worker who was mocking her beliefs behind her back. And I remembered that he is the protector of the underdog and would do anything for people to feel safe around him. 

The truth is, over the years I’ve learned kindness from John, open-handedness from Jessica, and courage from Mark. I am a better person for knowing them. And this is true about many other friends and family I drastically disagree with regarding issues that are important to me.

I have to constantly remind myself that people are so very complex:

That sometimes we can hold a belief yet behave in ways that completely contradict who we “should” be based on that belief.  

That more often than not, we put our relationships with other humans first, even if our politics don’t match in theory. 

That we react to life based on the experiences we have or have not had, the ways we were taught to believe or behave, and the perspectives to which we have or have not been exposed. (I view life through the lens of a Hispanic woman, raised in Ecuador by a single parent, an immigrant to this country, a person who did not grow up in a Christian home but came to know Jesus in my late teens. Hence, my worldview is significantly different from my husband’s worldview. He grew up in a small, mostly white, southern town here in the USA, in a two parent home, the son of a Nazarene pastor. Naturally, our political views are colored by our backgrounds but he and I have helped each other, over the years, to see the world through the other’s perspective and we are better for it.)  

That, at our core, most of us want to love truly others and are blind to the ways we hurt them. 

So, I am finding ways to fight the temptation to reduce people to one picture or post shared on social media and lose sight of their wholeness. Sometimes that means finding opportunities to engage in face-to-face, gentle discussions with them about those issues. It pushes me to think deeper and to listen better, to look at things from different perspectives, and to learn to disagree with grace and kindness.

Sometimes it means not engaging with certain people about certain topics because I know it won’t be fruitful and can actually be harmful to our relationship. And sometimes it means hiding some of my friends from my feed because it helps me to love them better in real life. 

I naturally want to isolate myself from people who disagree with me, to label them as less than human and cut them out of my life. But there is so much more to my relationships with these people than political agreement. If I let myself get caught up in the social media drama, I will miss all the other ways these friends make my life richer. 

*All names have been changed to protect the innocent and the not so innocent 😊

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Gaby Johnson is a native Ecuadorian who has lived in the USA for the last 25 years. She is married to a chaplain and homeschools their two amazing kiddos. 

#reHumanize Project, Uncategorized

reHumanize: Holy Embrace of (An)Other by Rev Dr Levi Jones

This blog post is part of a recurring series called the #reHumanize Project, an initiative by Nazarenes United for Peace that seeks to help us rediscover our shared, divine humanity.

Return of the Prodigal Son – Rembrandt

There’s a whole lot of “othering” going on these days. But our Wesleyan theology can help us overcome the tendency to retreat into our silos with battlements. It helps us be sure we are not creating victims through our theology.

Rev. Dr. Jones’ post comes at just the right time. I think you’ll enjoy it. May God help us.


We are swimming in a disorienting cultural moment. For some of us, it feels unprecedented. For others, it is yet another Monday in a succession of Mondays. But something does feel particularly poignant, a certain weightiness to navigating the cultural waters at the risk of drowning amidst the chaos. I grew up in Tornado Alley. Inevitably, when storms came, we would seek shelter in a cellar, hidden from the power of the storm. And, this image has provided an all-too-appropriate metaphor for the Church’s strategy for weathering the cultural maelstrom – hunker down, secure all exits, cram “our” people into the small space, and hope it blows over. 

There is a not-so-implicit theology of holiness that is operational in this model of cultural engagement. It is the idea that holiness is a matter of separation between clean and unclean, holy and unholy. Like water and oil, the two can’t mix. And, in fact, evil, sin, and the unclean contaminates that which it touches. Holiness is delicate and must be protected at all costs. Evil becomes a tangible thing (rather than an absence or twisting of the good) that must be eradicated. It is a small step toward eradicating the bodies and lives of those deemed “unclean” by these holiness codes. After all, holiness must be protected from contamination, lest we all become unclean by contact or association. 

Of course, holiness-as-separation (priestly tradition) is not the only framework for understanding holiness in the scriptures. The wisdom tradition gives testimony to the shared experience of living wisely in the world. The prophetic tradition emphasizes communities that preserve the well-being of the most vulnerable in society through means of justice (i.e., widows, orphans, foreigners, and the poor). The over-emphasis on priestly separation creates a significant imbalance in our vision of holiness. And, in its most twisted versions, priestly holiness can only define itself by what it is against while unable to name what it is for. Such a fragile vision of holiness undercuts the quality of holiness that promotes the “good” toward which it must be aimed. Extremes of holiness-as-separation devolve into fearful “escapology” rather than hopeful “eschatology” – the redemption of the world. To be called out and separate is always for the sake of the world, not over-and-against the world. 

The over-emphasis on priestly separation creates a significant imbalance in our vision of holiness.

How curious and yet convenient that the holiness-as-separation paradigm fits incredibly well within a political and economic framework that sees all of life on the basis of production, consumption, and competition. It is a framework that at once captures both institutional realities and individual lives. After all, politics and economics as they are currently constructed in the United States rest foundationally on the principle that we are all competitors vying for limited resources in the midst of a sea of insatiable and unending desire (supply and demand). Thus, we may have tentative agreements between select groups that work together for mutual benefit but inevitably it breaks down into individualistic self-preservation (after all, survival is the primary good in this system). In other words, competition devolves into conflict and competitors evolve into enemies – between the haves and have-nots. 

In a very simplified way, I am describing the cultural marriage, an unholy trinity, now present in the United States which is predicated on economic self-preservation, religious sectarianism, and political jingoism. The communion of capitalism and democracy under the guise of Christian faithfulness has been long embraced and retains numerous adherents. Questioning or theologically deconstructing such systems is difficult to maintain without significant reformation. Most systems are resistant to critique and prefer the certainty of ideology and demagogues. The extremes of holiness-as-separation, nationalistic isolationism, and capitalistic consumerism provide a sacred litany of categorical demands and classifications, sustaining power and privilege in the hands of a select few and preserves the “holiness” of the system without serious questioning of the system. The baptizing of nationalistic and capitalistic allegiances in Christian language demands conformity, lest dissent be punished with labels such as “unpatriotic,” “communist,” or “un-Christian,” etc. In other words, failing to ascribe to the system renders one unclean, unholy, and unwelcome – other. Likewise, those who are born outside of the system, those who challenge the system, or those who can be categorized as competitors (i.e., the poor, ethnic minorities, different nationalities, adherents of different faith traditions – including those who identify as Christian but question the system, etc.) are quickly labeled as enemies. 

Such categorization justifies any violence deemed necessary as a holy war fought to preserve the imagined sacred and holy status of a “Christian” society. Of course, nobody laments gaining the economic spoils of war (thus, pro-capitalism and pro-democracy are chief tenants of this cultural Christianity). The war may result in physical violence, such as a religious pogrom, or it may be as seemingly democratic as a court case determining if employers can fire LGBTQ+ employees with impunity. Regardless, the message is clear; those who do not fit within the parameters of this society and play the game are quickly labeled as “other” and either dismissed as inconsequential or destroyed as a potential threat. Such coalescing of holiness-as-separation, economic competition, and nationalistic exceptionalism is the perfect storm that can only see others as potential threats to be exorcised from the body politic of society. That politic goes by the simple name of Empire whose telos is power, not love. 

It was just such a system that crucified a poor, Jubilee-proclaiming, political dissident – the same dissident who mingled with prostitutes, lepers, the poor, and the outcast; the same crucified Christ who announced Sabbath freedom to the blind, the lame, tax collectors, widows, orphans, and sinners. And, it is this same crucified enemy of the Powers-that-be who instituted a Table as a gathering place for all who recognize that by God’s grace and as Kin-dom people of God, we can be neighbors rather than enemies. God, resplendent in holiness, has torn down the dividing wall, dissolved the categories of “other” in order that we may be made one, even as the Son and Father are one.

After all, it is God who is Holy/Wholly Other, who takes on our flesh and becomes one of us – which is to say, God does not remain “other.” This is the scandal of incarnation and crucifixion – the condescension of God – to become one of us, not merely in appearance. And, this same God confronts Peter in a vision in which he is told not to call unclean that which God has made clean – namely, Gentiles (a social and political “other” to the Jews). This trajectory of dismantling “other” from the grammar of our lives is clearly embodied at the Table where Jesus says, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matt. 26:28, NIV). What greater sin is there than the lack of love which promotes the “othering” of those whom God loves and calls to dine at the banquet of divine grace?

John Ortberg tells a powerful story of a priest set apart for service to others, which may bring further illumination. 

“Father Damien was a priest who became famous for his willingness to serve lepers.  He moved to Kalawao – a village on the island of Molokai, in Hawaii, that had been quarantined to serve as a leper colony. For 16 years, he lived in their midst. He learned to speak their language. He bandaged their wounds, embraced the bodies no one else would touch, preached to hearts that would otherwise have been left alone. He organized schools, bands, and choirs. He built homes so that the lepers could have shelter. He built 2,000 coffins by hand so that, when they died, they could be buried with dignity. Slowly, it was said, Kalawao became a place to live rather than a place to die, for Father Damien offered hope.

Father Damien was not careful about keeping his distance. He did nothing to separate himself from his people. He dipped his fingers in the poi bowl along with the patients. He shared his pipe. He did not always wash his hands after bandaging open sores. He got close. For this, the people loved him.

Then one day he stood up and began his sermon with two words: ‘We lepers….’  Now he wasn’t just helping them. Now he was one of them. From this day forward, he wasn’t just on their island; he was in their skin. First, he had chosen to live as they lived; now he would die as they died. Now they were in it together.

One day God came to Earth and began his message: ‘We lepers….’

Now he wasn’t just helping us. Now he was one of us. Now he was in our skin. Now we were in it together” (John Ortberg, God Is Closer Than You Think, 121-22).

May such holy love be evident among “us,” tearing down the walls that divide, so that we might confess together: “We lepers…”

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Rev. Dr. Levi Jones serves as the Director of the Doctor of Ministry at Nazarene Theological Seminary and Co-Lead Pastor at St. Paul’s Church of the Nazarene in Kansas City, MO. He is married to Rev. Rebecca Jones and is grateful for her partnership in life and ministry. They have two wonderful children, Hannah and Caleb.

#reHumanize Project

#reHumanize Project: Hospitality | Making Room for Others at our Tables by Rev. Rich Shockey

This blog post is part of a recurring series called the #reHumanize Project, an initiative by Nazarenes United for Peace that seeks to help us rediscover our shared, divine humanity.

This article first appeared in Holiness Today in Fall of 2016 and seems more apropos than ever. Since it is not included in their digital archives, the full text is below:

“Don’t you want to avoid spending eternity being tortured in hell?” my friend asked as I sat in his living room listening to his Gospel presentation.

“I’m already living in hell,” I replied. “How could things get much worse?”

I was sixteen years old at the time and had heard this refrain countless times from well-meaning friends. I’m sure they were legitimately concerned about my eternal state, but I heard little interest from them in the story of my own life that had brought me to that point.

Had they really taken the time, they might have learned that my inner turmoil had been so great, I had tried to end my life that year. They could have heard about the trust that was violated by a parent-figure when I was a young child, which launched me into a life-long spiral of self-destructive behavior and doubt about my own value.

I didn’t just need my future to be secured in “heaven,” I needed a very real and present healing—an encounter with a transforming God. I needed someone to show me the healing grace of God, not stand above me pronouncing judgment over my lifestyle. I was in desperate need of someone to hold open space for me and help me to see and hear the God who was already calling me.

Entering Into Our Stories

It wasn’t until I encountered a group of high school students at a Nazarene camp in Ohio a few years later that I finally had a life-changing encounter with God. I met some incredible people who made room for me at their tables. Despite my incredibly rough, violent, toxic—exterior, they invited me into their fellowship. They listened to my stories. The looked at me in the eye and acknowledged my value as a child of God.

They invited me to into a holy imagination that allowed me to envision a new life for myself, one marked by love and service to God and others.

They held up a mirror for me, which allowed me to see myself as God does: beloved. Even I was an image-bearer of God. That was a narrative often unheard in my youth.

The more I read the words of Jesus, the more aware I am of just how much time and energy he spent entering into the stories of those he encountered. Even though he was often addressed as “rabbi” or “teacher”, he seemed to spend at least as much time listening as he did talking. He asked lots of questions:

“Who touched me?” “Do you want to get well?” “Why are you crying?” “Who is it you are looking for?”

Now Jesus may have known the answers to these questions anyway, but he asked them over and over. I count at least 300 questions on the lips of Jesus. He’s not just asking to find out the answer, but he is engaging in the lives and stories of those he ministered among.

Jesus treated people as ends in themselves in hearing their stories, not just as means to an end.

Transformative Relationships

Jesus is often described as a “friend of sinners” (Mt. 11:19, LK 7:34). He stood in direct opposition to both the social and religious norms and customs of the day in order to achieve this friendship. He did more than just “have coffee” with them—he allowed his life to become intertwined permanently with them.

And isn’t this really the good news of the incarnation? That God would become forever intermingled with humanity? For deity to take on flesh means that God and humankind are intertwined in an inextricably bound relationship. There is now no godforsaken place that God will not go for us and with us. Human flesh is the redemptive vehicle through which God chose—and still chooses to—work.

Our Wesleyan heritage teaches us that we are not just changed in our standing with God (justification), but we are actually changed and transformed into Christlikeness (sanctification). And the church, even with all of her imperfections, is the primary conduit through which God enacts his transforming grace in this world, in Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit.

By inviting others to our table, by extending grace and hospitality to those who may be on the margins (either of society or the religious establishment), we are participating in the transforming power of God at work in the world.

When I was in the darkest of the days of my youth, I knew that something needed to change and I needed a way out.

I needed someone to show me the way, not just tell me.

Holy Hospitality

In his book, Reaching Out, Henri Nouwen says,

“Hospitality means primarily the creation of free space where the stranger can enter and become a friend instead of an enemy. Hospitality is not to change people, but to offer them space where change can take place. It is not to bring men and women over to our side, but to offer freedom not disturbed by dividing lines.”

This idea of hospitality might radically transform the way we approach evangelism. This doesn’t just mean that we simply invite people into the Kingdom by caring for them (although this is important!) Instead, this means that the very act of “creating free space” for people—their ideas, their stories, their hurts—presents the palette on which their new narrative can be created, all in cooperation with God. This kind of evangelism helps the world imagine the alternative kingdom of God, which stands apart from the power-hungry, violence-loving way of the empires of this world. It bears hope for those who carry only despair.

This means that, instead of standing on the outside of the world making angry pronouncements about how wrong it is, we enter into the pain of the world with the compassion of God. And if “compassion” means “suffering with,” then our lives have to be intertwined with those around us in such a way that anything that hurts them hurts us, too.

The story of my friend, Abbas, illustrates this for me. For years I had heard about refugees and their struggles, but I cannot say I had every really cried for them. However, a few years ago when Abbas laid out the painful details of imprisonment for his faith in his Middle Eastern country and his subsequent harrowing escape via a dangerous smuggler—all with his wife and 2 little girls in tow—I wept at the suffering he had endured.

This means that, instead of standing on the outside of the world making angry pronouncements about how wrong it is, we enter into the pain of the world with the compassion of God. And if “compassion” means “suffering with,” then our lives have to be intertwined with those around us in such a way that anything that hurts them hurts us, too.

The incarnation of Christ compels us to practice this kind of holy hospitality—to create space and make room for the stories of others without condemnation or judgment.

And this might be easy to do with people who are like us or who have stories that are similar to our own. But it becomes much more difficult with those who look different from us, who have a different social struggle, faith or value system than we do.

From Death to Life

The coming of the Kingdom of God has been inaugurated by Jesus and we are invited to participate in helping this world move from death to life. In a culture so obsessed with death, we are called to help it imagine a world that lives as if God were in charge.

The way of Jesus to the cross is called “cruciform” in that it is in the shape of the cross. Shouldn’t our lives be in the same shape? Willing to go where God will lead for the sake of others, knowing that resurrection lies ahead?

My own journey is one from death to life, and this is quite literal for me—I would likely be dead if it were not for those kids at that Nazarene camp, showing me how to love God and myself. My self-destruction would have surely been made complete, otherwise. They showed me that a redeemed life can participate in redeeming this world with Christ.

And this is what propels me into the world, to share the good news of the power of God to transform us. The radical change in my own life is not something can be hidden, and so I have dedicated my life to tearing down the walls that divide us and building longer tables of hospitality for even the most unlikely of guests.

#reHumanize Project

#reHumanize Project: Reimagining Humanity by Dr. Darren Reed

This blog post is part of a recurring series called the #reHumanize Project, an initiative by Nazarenes United for Peace that seeks to help us rediscover our shared, divine humanity.

When approached to write for the #reHumanize Project, I was asked for my thoughts on the project title: What people, places, things, or relationships need to be rehumanized? As I contemplated this, another question presented itself: What does it mean to rehumanize? Every process has a starting point and an endpoint. If in this project of rehumanizing our starting point is the dehumanized state in which we find ourselves and our relationships, our endpoint must be some true humanity from which we have been dehumanized.

Christ Pantocrator: Saint Catherine’s Monastery in Sinai.
6th c.

Only when we understand what it means to be human can we begin the process of rehumanizing. A small directional error at the beginning of a journey will end that journey miles off course. Without a clear goal in mind, moving ourselves and our relationships from their current state may prove fruitless or indeed harmful. Our #reHumanize project, therefore, must properly begin with a clear idea of what it means to be human.

Christian anthropology⁠—the church’s answer to the question, “What does it mean to be human?”⁠—is rooted in the creation order and in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. We find both biblical and historical witness to this anthropology.

Genesis 1:27 states that in the beginning humankind was made “according to the image of God.”1 The language is the same used in Exodus 25:40, when God instructs Moses to build the tabernacle “according to the pattern”2 shown him on Mt. Sinai. This semantic link is not accidental. It carries with it the implication that humankind, and indeed every individual human being, was modeled after a pattern⁠—some particular image of God.  Paul writes in Colossians 1:15, “The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation,” and Hebrews 1:3 identifies the Son as “the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.”3 (NIV) Further, the church affirmed at the Council of Chalcedon that in his humanity Jesus is “like us in all respects, apart from sin.”4 

The image of God is not abstract, but is found “exact” in Christ, therefore our humanity is created according to the full humanity found in Christ. To be truly human, then, is to be like Christ⁠—to think, to will, and to act as Christ. When we first deny our true humanity found in Christ, we lose the vision of the image of God in others. We rediscover our humanity and are able to rehumanize our relationships only as we conform ourselves to our pattern, the image of God found in Jesus. 

The ancient church called the process of conforming to the pattern of Christ theosis. Athanasius of Alexandria wrote concerning the incarnation and theosis: “God became man so that man might become god.”5 Expanding on Athanasius’s writing, Orthodox priest, author, and podcaster Fr. Andrew Stephen Damick writes, “He is present in us, but we remain ourselves, and He remains Himself. But His presence in us changes us. We become not just better versions of ourselves, but like Him.”6 

In language more familiar to Nazarenes, the process of becoming like God is entire sanctification. “It is love excluding sin;” John Wesley preached, “love filling the heart, taking up the whole capacity of the soul. It is love ‘rejoicing evermore, praying without ceasing, in everything giving thanks.’”7 Sanctified living sees us reclaim and restore the image of God in us and allows us to envision and cultivate the image of God in others.

Each and every human being with whom we interact has been made according to the image of God.

Each and every human being with whom we interact has been made according to the image of God. C.S. Lewis paints a profound picture in The Weight of Glory:

“It is a serious thing…to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities…that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”8 

Our responsibility begins with searching out the true humanity found in Christ and conforming our lives to that humanity by seeking union with Christ. Then we must seek to see Christ in the humanity of all those around us. With Christ as our sure foundation, we are able to build our #reHumanize edifice—reclaiming our own humanity and reenvisioning the humanity of those around us.

To return to Lewis:

“Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat—the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.”9 

In Lewis’s Eucharistic language we find the destination of our #reHumanize project: to have Christ truly hidden in us and to recognize Christ truly hidden in others. As the bread and wine of the Eucharist are transformed by the Spirit to be the body and blood of Christ, so we are transformed by the Spirit to “be for the world the Body of Christ, redeemed by His blood.”10 Eucharistic humanity is the true humanity we have lost and which we must reclaim—incarnational, sacrificial, resurrected, and ascended humanity.

As the bread and wine of the Eucharist are transformed by the Spirit to be the body and blood of Christ, so we are transformed by the Spirit to “be for the world the Body of Christ, redeemed by His blood.”

Let us then live sanctified lives in view of the sacramental nature of our everyday relations. Seek to begin each day with a fresh vision from God, asking that we may see the full humanity of Christ in every individual we encounter. In this way may we fulfill our own human potential, being “filled to the measure of all the fullness of God.”11

The words of Charles Wesley serve as a wonderful prayer for the #reHumanize project:

 Finish, then, thy new creation;
pure and spotless let us be:
let us see thy great salvation
perfectly restored in thee;
changed from glory into glory,
'til in heav'n we take our place,
'til we cast our crowns before thee,
lost in wonder, love, and praise.12

May God perfectly restore in us the image of Christ, that we may recognize the image of Christ in others, living each day in light of his glory. Amen.

“It is a serious thing…to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities…that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendships, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.”8 

C.S. Lewis


  1. Brenton, The Septuagint version of the Old Testament
  2. Ibid.
  3. New International Version
  4. Book of Common Prayer, p. 864
  5. On the Incarnation 54:3, emphasis mine
  6. That Man Might Become God, January 22, 2015
  7. The Scripture Way of Salvation, Section I, Paragraph 9
  8. The Weight of Glory, p. 9, emphasis original
  9. Ibid.
  10. Manual 2017, p. 261
  11. Ephesians 3:19b, NIV
  12. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling, v. 4

Darren Reed serves as a lay leader in Lenexa Central Church of the Nazarene in Kansas.

#reHumanize Project, Gender Issues, Uncategorized

#reHumanize Project: An Open Letter to John MacArthur by Pastor Emily Reyes

This blog post is the first of a recurring series called the #reHumanize Project, an initiative by Nazarenes United for Peace that seeks to help us rediscover our shared, divine humanity.

The timing of the launch of our series called the #reHumanize Project seems ironic considering the news of John MacArthur’s awful words about Beth Moore last week. I’ll link to Sarah Bessey’s treatment of it here.

While it has been devastating to hear this kind of dehumanization of half of the human race in the name of Christianity, it has also been encouraging to see how Nazarenes have risen up to be sure the ecclesial world knows that we have always affirmed women in ministry and still do.

ICYMI, we asked for photo comments of women in ministry over on our Facebook Page and the results were tear-producingly beautiful. So many lovely images of women serving God with their god-given gifts. You should take time to look through them.

I’m very pleased to present to you the first of our submissions for the #reHumanize project. I had the privilege of working with Pastor Emily Reyes in Kansas City and her wisdom, authenticity, and passion are captured well in her open letter.


Dear Mr. MacArthur,

This week, I watched a video of you laughing on a stage occupied by men as you mocked and derided a woman who has ever-so-cautiously stepped into her ministry and calling, has submitted herself entirely to the Church, and has spoken and led with grace and truth. You told her to go home. You told her to quiet down. And you did it all with incessant laughter, sarcasm, and scorn.

I say that I watched the video, but honestly, I only watched the first few minutes. I couldn’t take anymore of it, because it felt so familiar to me. And it felt so unholy. I’ve known men like you – men who told me where my place was, and where it wasn’t. Men who showed me what conversations and circles I was allowed into, and how to find my way back to the kitchen when I had wandered too far from its cozy feminine welcome.

Those men were good men. They loved me, they loved Jesus, and they were probably following leadership like yours. And I honestly didn’t mind at the time. I really liked the idea of being a housewife when I grew up; I baked a pie that could give any of the other church ladies’ a run for their money in our silent auctions by the time I was fourteen, and it felt safe to have some parameters set, some boundaries drawn.

It felt really safe to be quiet.

That is, until I had something to say.

[Disclaimer: my mom and sisters have been stay-at-home moms for most of their lives. That job is NO JOKE. It’s one I highly respect, one I view as hard & holy work, and one I think I’d love to have someday.]

I felt God’s call on my life when I was six years old, and I told my church that I was going to be a missionary, because that was an acceptable thing to say as a female in my context. I guess you could say education ruined me, but what’s really crazy to me is how long it took me to get voices like yours out of my head.

Voices of fear.

Voices of pride.

Voices that clung to power.

Voices that silenced the Spirit’s empowering, resurrection work in me.

It took a really long time to trust that God really had made Eve equal and partner in God’s image (Genesis 1) and had seen Hagar in her abuse (Genesis 16). God really had used Deborah to judge (Judges 4) and Rahab to lead (Joshua 2). Women really did preach the gospel first (Matthew 28) and Junia really was a deaconess highly regarded by Paul (Romans 16:7). There really is no male or female in Christ (Galatians 3:28) and God’s story really, truly, is big enough and bold enough and good enough to make room for all to be equal and all to have a voice and all – sons AND daughters – to prophesy in these days (Joel 2:28).

This is the scandal of the gospel – that in Christ’s death and resurrection all has been made right and all has been made new. The valleys have been raised up! The mountains have been brought low! In Christ is NEW CREATION – creation as it was first intended, devoid of culture’s systemic sexism and humanity’s broken power struggles. The scandal of the gospel is that it goes this far– yes! – far enough to level the fields and set EVERY silenced voice free to shout this good news to the masses. Men don’t have to live in such insecurity and fear that they puff up at the sound of a woman’s voice leading them to Jesus. There is space here. Don’t sell the gospel short.

In Christ is NEW CREATION as it was first intended, devoid of culture’s systemic sexism and humanity’s broken power struggles. The scandal of the gospel is that it goes this far, yes! far enough to level the fields and set EVERY silenced voice free to shout this good news to the masses

So I guess all I have to say to you is, you’re wrong, Mr. MacArthur. You’re wrong and I know it with every fiber of my being because I’ve experienced the goodness and joy it is to say yes to God’s leading – even when it pushes me beyond what I’ve been raised to believe is biblical and even when it’s the last thing on earth I have wanted. I know because the Church needs the voices and presence and gifting of women if She is ever to live fully into the Kingdom of God that the Spirit is leading Her toward. I know because women pastors have shown me Christ’s way and Christ’s gospel too clearly for them to be following anyone else’s leadership in their lives. I know because my heart tells me so, my Church tells me so, and my Bible tells me so.

The leverage that you hold on American Christianity is still great, even as the sun sets on Christendom and the cultural standing of evangelicals is waning with it. But be careful, sir. Men are drinking in your words, reading your books, listening to your sermons and your speeches and your sarcasm and they’re believing it. And they’re teaching their families it, they’re proclaiming it from their pulpits, and there are six-year-old girls who are listening with ardent hearts and sincere spirits and accepting what they’re hearing as truth. In this, you are causing others to sin, Mr. MacArthur. You are propagating falsehood and misusing power, you’re reenforcing the walls of the boy’s club, and this is not the way of Jesus. I urge you to pause before you sit on any panel again and open yourself up so lightheartedly to word association games. Your words hold power, and what you do with them matters. You’re too smart to have an excuse here. And while I believe that it is right and good to encourage one another and build each other up, I also believe that there is space, especially in the Church, for righteous anger and prophetic voices to ring out in the face of injustice and wrongdoing. And so, Mr. MacArthur, I appeal to you “by the humility and gentleness of Christ” to examine your heart, repent, and listen to diverse voices around you with humility – Christ comes to us in the least of these.

I won’t go home. I won’t because Jesus hasn’t told me to. Because Jesus didn’t tell Mary to go back to the kitchen (Luke 10), and he didn’t tell Mary Magdalene and Joanna and Susanna to return to their homemaking (Luke 8) and when the men tried to dismiss the woman in Mark 14, he told them “Leave her alone. Why are you bothering her? She has done a beautiful thing for me.”

I have a feeling he’d have similar words for you, Mr. MacArthur.

Pastor Emily Reyes serves as the associate pastor to children and families at Shawnee Church of the Nazarene in Kansas. She is a graduate of MidAmerica Nazarene University and is currently pursuing her M. Div. at Nazarene Theological Seminary

Emily Reyes.jpg

#reHumanize Project: A Prayer for the Kurds

Syrian Kurds protest against Turkey in Ras al-Ain, Hassakeh province, on 6 October 2019
Image: AFP | Syria’s Kurds reject Turkey’s plans and say they will defend their territory at all costs

This blog post is the first of a recurring series called the #reHumanize Project, an initiative by Nazarenes United for Peace that seeks to help us rediscover our shared, divine humanity.

We thought it might be fitting to open the #reHumanize Project with this prayer for Syria and the Kurds. It is written by Jeff Sykes, theologian and servant of the church.

“Almighty God, we confess that every good and perfect gift is from you. Your servant James instructed us to be quick to listen and slow to anger. We know, oh Lord, from experience that our anger does not lead to your righteousness. Even so, our corporate brokenness seems to leave us weak and unable to address the problems of our world. Today, Lord, we read about your children in Syria–Kurds, Syrians, and others–who are long oppressed by violence and hate. We read about friends abandoned for political gain. We see the future where death and pain are multiplied: a future where expediency produces despair.

You have called us, o most merciful God, to extend mercy. You call us to the occupation of peacemaking. You call us, through the faithfulness of your Son Jesus Christ, to imagine and work toward a hopeful future. You empower us by your Holy Spirit to imagine a world where your will is done here on earth as it is in heaven.

Forgive us for sitting by too long and doing nothing. Instead, empower us to hear and respond to your gracious call to recognize that, in you, the dividing lines of this present age are erased by your love. Give courage to leaders to work for justice. Help us to hold them up and encourage them when their spirits fail.

Amen. “