Please note: this is from the 2003 8 Points version not our current 2011 version.
We will be updating this study guide soon!
By calling ourselves progressive, we mean that we are Christians who know that the way we behave toward one another and toward other people is the fullest expression of what we believe.
Many New Testament scholars have argued that we can learn more about the Jesus of the scriptures from the things that he does rather than from the words that he speaks. The Jesus we meet in the gospels is a man of action; he heals; he forgives; he demonstrates compassion; he takes a stand against injustices; he shares; he weeps; he loves unconditionally. He then tells his disciples and interested followers to go and do likewise. Maybe that is why the writers of all three synoptic gospels wrote that Jesus believed that the most important commandment is to “love God with all of your heart, soul and mind and to love your neighbor as yourself.”
According to the writer of Luke’s gospel, Jesus then tells a story that suggests that “our neighbor” is anyone who might need our help. Nowhere in these important passages do we find Jesus suggesting that before we extend ourselves on behalf of another or before we love our neighbor, that we should first expound a theology, or a belief system. Nor does it appear that there was ever a “litmus test” that Jesus used before he befriended someone or helped him or her. Progressive Christians believe that our actions of love are more important than the expression of our beliefs.
According to the synoptic Gospels when someone asked Jesus, “How do I find the Kingdom of God” or what we might call the Realm of God today, Jesus almost always suggested that they take some action. Interestingly according to synoptic Gospels, he never suggested that the questioner must first acquire some “right” or correct belief. Thus the “rich man” was told to follow the code and if that was not enough than he would have to give up his wealth. The lawyer it was instructed to love his neighbor as he loved himself. The priests were told to give up their hypocrisy. The reality is that it is much easier to debate theology, Christology, creeds or to memorize scripture than it is to follow the teachings of the Compassionate one. For most of us, this would require a significant change in our behavior.
Because progressive Christians do not demand that new members change to mirror the existing core beliefs of the membership of a church, some people have accused them of having no moral standards. Their accusers, however, may be confusing cultural norms with morality. By putting behavior ahead of belief in a hierarchy of values, progressive Christians are insisting that followers of Jesus are bound to treat their fellow human beings with kindness and respect. The first disciples of Jesus were convinced that the standard of behavior he expected of his followers was love for their neighbors. Genuine love is acting in a manner that enhances another’s well being, even at a cost to oneself. The changes that are required in people who want to follow Jesus would include giving up greed, coercion, exploitation, and oppression as behavioral norms both in the church and in society.
2. How do we deal with our differences in a healthy and positive way?
3. What are some of the ways we can demonstrate our understanding of the “great commandment” when it comes to loving our neighbor?
4. Create a list of Christian values that you think are reflections of your faith today.
5. Do you believe that you behave as a follower of Jesus most of the time; some of the time; or now and then?