If the Baptists who raised me in rural North Carolina taught me anything, they taught me to love Jesus and the Bible. Hard-working farmers and factory employees, my people had high hopes for me. They stressed education and sent me with care packages to go out and see the world. But however far I might go, they made sure I knew that Jesus and the Bible were at the center of everything. Jesus was our Lord and Savior, the ultimate answer to life's biggest questions and my heart's deepest longings. In Sunday school, I learned that you find Jesus through the Bible. The Good Book was our constant companion. We memorized it chapter and verse.
As others showed me more than 2,000 verses about the poor, my people's passion for Scripture moved me to connect discipleship with justice. Jesus had clearly invited his followers into a new relationship with God: "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). What's more, Jesus made clear that this new relationship entails personal transformation: "No one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again" (John 3:3). These realizations interrupted my assumptions about how I relate to other people. The more I paid attention to the Bible, the more it seemed my relationship with Jesus was inseparable from my relationship to those rejected and overlooked by society. "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat," Jesus said. "I was a stranger and you invited me in …. [W]hatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me" (Matt. 25:35, 40).
So I followed Jesus to Rutba House, a new monastic community in Durham, North Carolina. Communities like ours take root in cities, ...1