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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 whorecognize that being followers of Jesus is costly, and entails selfless love, conscientious resistance to evil, and renunciation of privilege.

Whenever people widen their circle of concern, they will find demands on their resources and risks to their status.  Followers of Jesus cannot expect to be any more successful or popular than Jesus was.  Like the first of Jesus’s disciples, we must learn to give up the hope of being favored or special.

In one story (Mark 10:35-45), two of  Jesus’s disciples, James and John, come to ask a favor. “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.”  Most people also look to find some place where they can be special.  To have a special place helps to overcome the fear of being nobody and the fear of having no power.  Christian groups claiming special access to God have overcome their fear of being nobody and of being powerless, but they frequently have produced a negative reaction in those from whom they wanted to separate themselves – even though the gospel story had warned them that they would evoke hostility.

As soon as the other ten disciples heard about the request made by James and John, “they began to be angry.” After Jesus heard the request of James and John and after he saw the anger in the others, he changed the course of the conversation.  He did not tell James and John that they were wrong or bad for wanting to have a special status.  According to Mark, Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all.”  Jesus understood the fear that drove his disciples to want special status.  Jesus also understood that redirected fear can become a form of spiritual energy that can be transformed into loving concern for other people. There is a special bond that occurs when we put ourselves at risk on behalf of another.

Genuine concern for other people includes resisting any forces that would drain them of energy, deny them sustenance, rob them of dignity, or destroy their hope.  Progressive Christians believe that the resistance to evil in society, rather than the enhancement of our social position, has always been both an obligation and an opportunity for those who follow Jesus. It is an obligation because it is a way to test our commitment to the path; it is an opportunity because when one puts themselves at risk on behalf of another simply because of one’s compassion, it can be one of the most direct paths to an experience of the Realm of God or that absolute sense of connectedness.

There is caveat here that is important. Jesus gave us a wonderful story about the Good Samaritan who literally put his life at risk to save his arch enemy, the Jew. The Samaritan merchant suddenly found himself in a difficult situation. He knew that if he did not act this man would die. He also knew that were most likely robbers in the area and the safest thing would be to get out of that area. But he did the humane or even the holy thing and stopped and helped the wounded Jew. He took him where he could get help and paid for it at some significant expense. But then he apparently continued on his way to Jericho to do his work. He did not wait for rewards or praise nor did go back out into the desert and look for more victims to “save.”

Some people have misinterpreted the teachings of Jesus to presume that we are supposed to fix all of the injustices, all of the wrongs, using all of our energy and resources to save the world at the expense of our health, our families, and our financial resources. The universe will always provide plenty of opportunities to make a stand; to help another; to put ourselves at risk when it can make a difference and when it counts; even to literally put our life on the line. But we must remind ourselves that the teaching is to love another as we love ourselves. We can not love others more than we love ourselves and loving others can never be a substitute for love of self.

1. What does the word “disciple” mean for you today?  In what ways do you think it could be “costly?”

2.  How far would you be willing to go?  What changes would you be willing to make?  What risks would you be willing to take?

3. How might we transform our negative fears into positive energy?  How could we help others to do the same?  

4. What privilege are you willing to recognize and renounce for the betterment of all?

5. What do we mean by evil today?  In what ways do you think you can resist evil in our world, in your life?