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Learning to Love

Jay Smith, YTI President and Bridger Professor of Theology & Ethics

Fall 2019 Inscribed

YTI’s mission is “to change how people understand God, and to enable Christians to embrace the mission of Jesus.” At the heart of this mission is the truth that “God is love.”

Love is basic to the YTI ethos (agape in the Greek, and hesed in the Hebrew). YTI has always affirmed the “Great Commandment” — to love one another as God has loved us; to love God with our heart, soul, mind, and strength; and to love our neighbor as ourself. There are no limits or boundaries to the love that God pours into our lives.

This seems a bit simplistic; but nothing could be further from the truth. This is not your daily, run-of-the-mill, touchy-feely, romantic, or family kind of love. This is self-giving for the sake of the other. It is sacrificial love.
In many ways, human beings fear exercising this kind of love. It means exposing our “self” to the possibility of pain.We zealously guard our “selves” from any kind of pain. We do not want to suffer by loving with no guarantee of return. So, we don’t love, and our world continues to spin downward.

YTI teaches about, promotes, and acts on the fact that “God is Love” (1 John 4:7-12). The love that we teach is superabundant, and it overflows into our community. This is why the dual emphases of education and community go hand-in-hand. The seeker, congregant, or minister can have all the knowledge in the world; but if they do not have – and share – “love,” they might as well be a noise maker in a world of noise makers.

It might seem simplistic to say that “at YTI, we learn to love”, but it’s much harder than you think. To love like God loves us requires that we trade-out our “old life” in exchange for His life (Jesus’). To love like God loves changes our thinking about the “other” — the one who does not look like us, act like us, or even believe like us. On the outside, that looks impossible. But with God, all things are possible.

Theological education is the most rigorous, challenging education you can undertake because it requires the investment of our hearts and the transformation of our lives. Theological education not only gives the student a knowledge of theology, Scripture, philosophy, culture, and hands-on-ministry, but also transforms the student’s life from the inside-out. To “study” God is to behold God and God’s glory, and to begin to understand the depth and meaning of God-as-love, God’s love for us, and God’s absolute love for the “other.”

Dr. Jay Smith is president and Bridger professor of theology and ethics at Yellowstone Theological Institute. He has taught at Howard Payne University, Baylor University, and the United States Naval Academy. A published author, he and Stanley Grenz co-created The Pocket Dictionary of Ethics (IVP, 2003) and Created for Community Revised Edition (Baker Academic, 2015). A conversation with Jay reveals his passions for literature and adventure. He loves to hike, compose music, and write about Jesus. Jay roots for the Baylor Bears and Howard Payne Yellowjackets.

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