Letter 3

DAY 3

Lisa Bowens

Associate Professor of New Testament
Princeton Theological Seminary
January 22, 2021

Dear President Biden, Vice-President Harris, and Members of the 117th Congress,

As I write this letter, simultaneous crises exist. A pandemic affects the physical, economic, mental, spiritual, and emotional health of our nation and the world. Over 400,000 Americans have died, bringing immense grief and trauma. The disturbing and frightening scenes of rioters storming Capitol Hill remain emblazoned upon many minds, for such actions threaten this republic’s democratic ideals and norms. Racial divisions, which run deep in our nation, continue to plague us like a virus refusing eradication.

Can Christian scripture speak to such crises? Words do matter; and for Christians, The Word matters. John’s gospel calls Jesus the Word of God that became flesh and dwelled among us (John 1:14). Jesus, a Jew, lived in the midst of political corruption, deep divides between the rich and the poor, Roman oppression of the Jews, and sicknesses, like leprosy, for which there were no cure. Jesus’ arrival reveals that God comes to humanity in times of crises and that God’s care for and commitment to humanity and the world remain. Christ is Immanuel—meaning “God is with us” (Matthew 1:23)—a God who refuses to abandon us in the midst of a world filled with pain, hate, injustice, oppression, and division.

“Jesus reminds us not to neglect justice, mercy, faith, and love…”

Jesus gives us words of comfort: “I am with you always” (Matthew 28:20) and “Peace, I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (John 14:27). His presence empowers participation with God’s ways in the world, for God did not create people to destroy, hate, or abuse each other. Instead, we care for and love one another as Christ loves us (John 15:12). Jesus reminds us not to neglect justice, mercy, faith, and love, for these are integral, not optional or antithetical, to faith (Matthew 23:23).

Do we speak out against hate, do justice in an anti-justice world, proclaim truth in a world that craves fantasy? Yes. Christ’s presence empowers and calls us to do what is right. Indeed, The Word matters. May we, in the words we speak and in the lives we live, reveal this reality. And may God’s Spirit guide us all in the momentous days ahead.

Praying for you and the nation,

Lisa Bowens

Dr. Lisa Bowens, PhD
Associate Professor of New Testament
Princeton Theological Seminary

the author

Lisa Bowens, Associate Professor of New Testament at Princeton Theological Seminary, received her M.T.S. and Th.M. from Duke University Divinity School and her Ph.D. in New Testament from Princeton Theological Seminary. She is the author of An Apostle in Battle: Paul and Spiritual Warfare in 2 Corinthians 12:1-10. Her latest book, African American Readings of Paul: Reception, Resistance, and Transformation, is the first monograph to investigate a historical trajectory of African Americans’ utilization of Paul and his letters to protest injustice, oppression, and racism in their own writings from the 1700s to the mid-twentieth century.