Face to Face: Engaging with New Wine

By Jazmin Julene Miller

An explanation of what New Wine is and does is not often streamlined and usually earns a puzzled look instead of awe or even understanding, though it becomes more clear as people spend time with members of New Wine. It is consistent with the heart of the institute that it would be understood in relationship, not a PowerPoint, or an essay, for that matter. However, sharing my own understanding of New Wine may be a helpful introduction.

Trinitarian theology is at the very heart of New Wine; the loving, relational engagement within the godhead and our participation in it through the Son allow us to engage the world by going through our convictions in love, which our mission. Trinitarian theology and the person of Jesus are the foundation for New Wine’s theology; they cannot be removed or the whole system crumbles. Nor can New Wine be separated into beliefs and practices as if they were separate categories; the beliefs themselves compel believers toward action. There is no place for passive belief or intellectual theology that does not translate to personal engagement. As Edward Abbey said: “Sentiment without action is the ruin of the soul.”

Dr. Metzger has said often that “Theology is life on life,” never a game to gain power or influence. New Wine’s theology is both relational and incarnational and requires believers to humble themselves to engage life on life, seeking unity even in uncomfortable, painful, or controversial spaces.[1] Drawing near to God will always mean drawing near to and participating in the lives of our neighbor,[2] whoever that may be.[3] It is an honor to engage with students and community members in this way as a representative of New Wine and a student at Multnomah Biblical Seminary. Connecting our theological studies to our lives is essential, because even Biblical facts and terms are meaningless unless they lead to loving, humble, and communal engagement.

Our theological knowledge will often prove inadequate for the questions that the diverse men, women, and children to whom we minister are wrestling with, which should not surprise us. Jesus never said ‘Everyone will know you are my disciples because of your impressive theology and apologetics.’ Instead, he commanded and compels us to selfless, compassionate love, which we cannot ‘do’ within our own power, but we are called to nonetheless.[4] To love requires us to be in relationship with the one who is himself love.

New Wine’s theology is relational, emphasizing Biblical concepts including enemy love, building relational bridges to the other, and growing the evangelical church’s model from fearful passivity of the stranger to passionate, Spirit-driven, sacrificial engagement of our brothers and sisters. These concepts became enfleshed in the person of Jesus Christ, which introduces the incarnational aspect of New Wine’s theology. Though the institute of New Wine is confusing to many and alarming to some, the very teachings of Jesus received a similar response— he did, after all, warn that it would cost everything.[5]

This type of theology, where our convictions do not impede us from interacting with those that are different from us, only makes sense within the life of Jesus. It is there that power structures and kingdoms are turned upside down and proper behavior is no match for a heart devoted to God above all worldly pursuits.[6]

Drawing near to God is not a separate undertaking from drawing near to a suffering neighbor or claiming our place as our brothers’ keeper. One cannot turn to look at the face of God without staring the orphan, the widow, the undocumented immigrant, and the marginalized in the face, for in their suffering eyes we can see the eyes of our despised, degraded Savior. He will always be among them. If we seek to walk with God, we must always be walking towards and with our most broken brothers and sisters.

New Wine’s tagline is “building relational bridges through Jesus,” which sounds like inspiring and inspired work. I somehow did not anticipate that building these bridges, which is to say, hearing stories and learning about shared wounds, would affect me so deeply. Though our aim at New Wine is lofty, to see God’s kingdom come on earth,[7] the work is not glamorous or quick; it is personally costly and painful and slow.[8]

Making space to be vulnerable with those who are very different than us is not easy, but that is what Jesus calls us to do through the Spirit. Pursuing relationship, despite cultural or religious obstacles, is challenging. Loving your neighbor will be costly, whether they are a Native American student or a former-Christian Buddhist or a homeless person. There is no gimmick or performance element to building these relational bridges, because gimmicks always fail. Sincerity builds bridges and wins hearts because it breaks hearts, but there may be no more important undertaking for a disciple of Jesus than to get close— face to face— with people who will break your heart. There the love of God is poured out; his power and glory are present in the suffering.

Jazmin Julene Miller is pursuing hospital chaplaincy and is in the second year of her Masters in Divinity at Multnomah. An Oregon native, she has been writing and reading voraciously all her life and is delighted to have found her people (Jesus-loving, critically-thinking academic nerds) through New Wine. She has served as our Student Coordinator since Fall 2017 and is the connecting piece between students, administrators,  big ideas, and  practical implementation. She loves people and stories and reads East of Eden every summer. Read more at her blog!




[1] Rom 12:16

[2] Dr. Paul Louis Metzger articulates that being “…reconciled with God above involves being reconciled with one another down below” in Consuming Jesus: Beyond Race and Class Divisions in a Consumer Church (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007) 28.

[3] As defined by Dr. Metzger, your neighbor is “the person with whom we would least like to identify ourselves,” New Wine Tastings: Theological Essays of Cultural Engagement (Eugene, OR: Cascade Books, 2011) 72.

[4] I am inspired by the words of a Buddhist friend who said Christians should “have a corner on compassion,” New Wine Tastings, 65.

[5] Matt. 16:24; Phil 3:7-8

[6] Mark 12:41-44; Matt. 19

[7] And in this kingdom, instead of getting palaces that isolate us from one another, we die to ourselves daily and identify with the poor and align ourselves with minorities and the oppressed. Consuming Jesus, 85.

[8] These relationships are costly because they make us aware of our desperate “need to be delivered” from our own complacency. Consuming Jesus, 50, 116.