Political science chair Chris Moore sees importance in the little words at Bethel.

By Chris Moore

If we ask ourselves what Bethel University has been about or what it should be about, we’re inclined to pay attention to the big words.  We look for those big nouns to define our goals. I’m attracted to words like “endowment” or “facility.” We zoom in on words like “opportunity,” “award,” “championship,” and “employment.”  If we can somehow make our way past the nouns, we’ll soon arrive at the verbs. Verbs motivate us, after all. So, we “strive” and “commit.” We “seek” and “build” and “reconcile.” We “study” and “practice” and “prepare.”  Then come the adjectives: “excellent” and “driven” and even “whole and holy.” Those are good things, too, but I’m not convinced they make us all that much different from the other colleges and universities down Snelling Avenue.  What I hope makes us different is the small words. The little words we don’t pay that much attention to; words that make all the difference in the world.

I’m talking about words like “for” and “with” and “to.”  If Bethel University will prosper and lead into the next generation, we have to be clear about who and what we are “for.”  Let’s be for open scholarly inquiry.  Let’s be for rigorous liberal arts education.  Let’s be for whole person formation.  We’ll be better when we’re for our mission, rather than against the things that frighten us.  

We also need to be clear about who we’re “with.”  The debates that will define the next generation at Bethel University will attempt to stipulate who we’re for and who we’re against.  Let’s be with as many people as we possibly can.  Let’s be notable for being with people, rather than against them.  Let’s be remarkable for reaching communities with our educational mission that other schools just aren’t.  Let’s be with communities of color.  Let’s be with first generation college students.  Let’s be with political liberals and political conservatives.  Let’s show the world that all those people can thrive by being with each other.  Let’s be the Christian college of choice for the 21st century by being with people in our community, equipping them to be with everyone around the world.

Finally, let’s remember “to.”  For many students at most schools, this next college generation will be transactional.  I give money to you. You give a degree to me.  We must be more than that.  Let’s give our scholarship, our study, our teaching, our efforts, and our achievements to God.  Let’s center our motivation not in what we can extract from four years or a career at Bethel University, but how we can give this time to our Lord, and let His glory be our motivation.  Let’s be driven by Mark 12:17 and “render … to God the things that are God’s.”  We’re those things.

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