A Back to School Letter from President Gibson

Let this academic year be one in which we purpose ourselves to see God’s goodness amid the struggle.

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“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.”
—Matthew 10:16

Dear students, staff, and faculty,

I am so thankful to be welcoming you to this fall semester. Many of us have spent the last six months feeling isolated. Regular routines that kept us grounded have fallen away, and we’ve had to form new ones. We’re in the middle of a polarizing election season. We’ve lost people we looked up to—Ravi Zacharias, Kobe Bryant, J.I. Packer, Rep. John Lewis, among others. Many things feel different about this year.

Even now, perhaps especially now, when things are so challenging, I want to encourage you to seek to be good, brave, and ready. These words were deliberately chosen to represent the character we aspire to as members of the King’s community. Let this academic year be one in which we purpose ourselves to see God’s goodness amid the struggle.

Good = Wrestle

Seeking after the good doesn’t happen without a struggle. All of us have areas in our lives that get in the way of loving God and loving one another well. To pursue good, we have to wrestle with ourselves. Perhaps we hold assumptions that cloud our perception of others; maybe we’re so focused on pleasing people that we don’t stop to ask what God would have us do. In either case, the way forward is to accept that pursuing the good won’t always be comfortable and then to do the hard work of self-reflection and repentance. Before we tell others what we think they should change, let us be willing to wrestle with our own shortcomings.

And as we relate to one another, remember that even people with whom we deeply disagree have something to teach us. We owe it to each other to engage in our debates and conflicts constructively, hearing one another out and treating everyone with humanity and dignity as we seek Truth. I encourage you to refer to The King’s College’s Statement on Academic Freedom and the College-Wide Commitment to Unity in Diversity (both published this summer) as we seek to disagree agreeably.

Brave = Reconcile

But good disagreement, good relationships, and good citizenship can be difficult and at times, discouraging.

Maybe we find that our actions unintentionally hurt a friend and we need to summon the courage to apologize and change course. Or perhaps, in our deep disagreements about what it looks like to seek the good, we want to take the easy way out. We can become cynical and give up on the relationship.

This is why being brave is so vital. Instead of treating one another as enemies, the better path is to choose to see each other as brothers and sisters. To love our enemies, as Jesus Christ taught us. To seek a future where we are reconciled to one another and to God.

Reconciliation (which is also the Interregnum theme for this year) doesn’t mean papering over offenses, failing to draw boundaries, or ceasing to care about justice. From a scriptural perspective, reconciliation draws from the idea that only Christ can mend the broken relationship between God and humanity (2 Corinthians 5). Reconciliation is costly. If we have hurt someone, we cannot rush or demand their forgiveness. If we have been wronged, God stands with us in the pain of it.

So, when I ask you to seek a future where we are reconciled, what I mean is this: don’t give up on the promise that God is making all things new. Insofar as it depends on you, live at peace with one another (Romans 12:18). Practice resurrection, as Wendell Berry says.

Ready = Rise

I hope that you will choose to rise to the challenge of a good and brave life. I hope that your years at The King’s College ready you for a lifetime of participating in God’s work in the world.

This year, I encourage you to take advantage of the professors, staff, and fellow students who want to pour into you. Turn your face to our Father in heaven, who loves you. Seek Him, and rest in Him, even as we wait for His final restoration of the world.

Wrestle. Reconcile. Rise.

This is what it will take to be good, brave, and ready in 2020, and you have an important role to play. Classes begin tomorrow, and I look forward to walking with each of you this year as we wrestle, reconcile, and rise together.

Yours in Service,
Tim Gibson

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