Love Matters More

Conversations should start with interrogating our own heart and understanding who we are and what motivates us.

Jared Byas wonders. That’s different than those who wander. It’s key to make that distinction.

He admits one of his go-to questions is, “OK, but why?” Says Byas, “My passion is to explore new ways of being Christian and help people translate all of life’s big questions into a life full of meaning and connection.”

Byas studied under Dr. Peter Enns in the early 2000s, he also was a teaching pastor and professor near Philadelphia, teaching courses and developing curricula in philosophy, ethics, and biblical studies. In 2011, Byas started a creative solutions company and, in 2013, had the opportunity to partner in the Experience Institute, an experience-based graduate program in Chicago.

“I like to take super smart people and ask them, ‘You’re smart. Great. And how does what you’re saying help us love each other better right here and right now?’ “

We talked with Byas about his book Love Matters More and came away with an understanding of “why.”

“There was a class I took in seminary on the history of Presbyterianism. So, it wasn’t even Christianity, which has like 34,000 denominations. It was just Presbyterianism,” he remembers. “And in the beginning, the opening pages, it was like this huge March Madness bracket. It was like Bracketology for Presbyterians that showed how every Presbyterian denomination broke off.”

“Over time I became a pastor and I had people in my congregation who couldn’t care less about any of that. And I kept trying to force it down their throat. ‘You don’t understand, to live like Jesus, you have to understand the difference between these two denominations of Presbyterianism in the 19th century.’ It became absurd.

“I’ve been ruminating on that, thinking about that and listening to these people in my congregation and watching them live lives that were full of love and grace and compassion and mercy and all of these very practical, very real earthy things who didn’t really have the time for all of my theological ponderings and speculation. And so through that, it became more clear to me that Christianity is really about how we live our lives, um, and less about what we put in our heads as some belief that we can check off.”

Byas and Enns also co-authored Genesis for Normal People and launched a podcast, The Bible For Normal People.

Christianity is really about how we live our lives and less about what we put in our heads as some belief that we can check off.

“[The podcast] has been a wonderful opportunity to really grow the conversation and grow our community,” said Byas, who leans into being a plain-spoken Texan. “I grew up in a town where I got the same kind of resources all the time about the Bible. There wasn’t really anything new. And then I go to seminary and I learned this whole world of biblical scholarship. And I say, ‘Why wasn’t that at the Christian bookstore in my hometown?’ Like, why wasn’t this accessible? And it really just hasn’t been accessible to people.

“We try to wrangle these scholars who are at top universities in religion and encourage them to use people’s language, that they use every day, instead of all these highfalutin’ words.”

Speaking of words, Byas says conversations start with our hearts.

“What do we hope to get out of a conversation?” he asks. “I think that’s a really important principle to start with the end in mind. How do you want to feel, what do you want the other person to be feeling? What kind of words and posture and language and emotion do I present myself with over the next hour as we have these debates and arguments so that we can end up there where I really want.

“It’s just important that we start by interrogating our own heart and understanding who we are and what motivates us,” he adds. “Is it a desire to be right? Do I really feel like I’m in a family that’s so different from me and I just want to belong, feel validated. Sometimes we are good at self-sabotaging.

“What I really wanted to do was feel loved and feel heard, and then I went at this combative, defensive approach and I didn’t get there. It’s like, ‘Well, no duh, you didn’t get there.’ Taking that into mind and taking stock of where we are, what do we want? And then, what’s our approach to getting there. This doesn’t advocate being a doormat or being provoked or prodded into conversations you don’t want to have. There’s a place for healthy boundaries. Go into it with the end in mind and checking our own motivations. Make sure that what we’re saying and doing is consistent with what we’re hoping to get out of it.”

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