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Point 6 from the 8 Points Study Guide – Peace and Justice

The 8 Points By Which We Define Progressive Christianity

This is an excerpt from our 2012 8 Points Study Guide which you can purchase here


By calling ourselves progressive Christians, we mean we are Christians who …

Point 6 — Strive for peace and justice among all people.

Probably just about everyone believes in peace and justice. Therefore, striving for peace and justice among all people sounds like something every Christian should or would like to do. Unfortunately that has not been the case throughout history. Once Christianity was installed as the national religion of the Roman Empire in the fourth century, terrible atrocities—wars, murder and unjust acts of aggression and oppression—occurred in the name of Jesus the Christ and ruler of the world. Some historians have suggested Christianity has caused more pain and suffering than peace and justice over the last 1700 years. Even if this is a remote possibility, one must wonder if Christianity is worth saving if it has caused such suffering and divisiveness. But I believe it is important to remember we ( are viewing Christianity here as a path and an opportunity to experience the Sacred, the Infinite Mystery, the in-dwelling of something we call God or the Realm of God. We do not believe in the idea of Christendom or that Christianity or any religious structure has the only keys to the kingdom. This means we have made a shift from focusing on the persona, worshipping without questioning the ambiguous god/man, to focusing on the path that Jesus the wisdom teacher, the enlightened Rabbi, laid out for his disciples. Although it is not an easy path to follow, it can be a very rewarding and even life changing way to live one’s life.

Jesus was very clear in a variety of passages that if we want to experience this Realm of the Infinite Mystery or have a direct experience of the Divine Presence, we will need to reach out and take risks on behalf of those who suffer. “Pick up your cross if you want to follow me,” he was supposed to have said. So he talks about the Good Samaritan who risked his life to help the wounded Jew lying on the side of the road. He models with his own life a willingness to turn the tables in the Temple because of the unjust exchange rate the money changers were charging the poor Jews who had no perfect animal to sacrifice. He eventually showed us we should not even fear death when we are seeking justice for those who have no hope. And he went into Jerusalem to protest the injustices of the Roman and Priestly treatment of his people.

I believe we can assume whenever we take a risk on behalf of another, something changes in our relationship. It is no longer just a philosophical or political issue. It becomes a special kind of experience of the other. You cannot put your life in danger or take a risk on behalf of someone without that relationship changing. It is often the place where we begin to see the divine in another which allows us to discover the divine within ourselves. It is the place where, for the moment at least, boundaries disappear and we begin to experience the interconnectedness and the Oneness of all life. It can be a time when we move from an interest in trying to right a wrong, to a true experience of compassion for another. Then our compassion for another often leads us into a desire for justice for all people.

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 the resistance to oppression or cruelty in society 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 oneself at risk on behalf of another, as a result 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 an important caveat here. Let’s take a closer look at the story of 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 if he did not act this man would die. He also knew there were most likely robbers in the area and the safest thing would be to get out of that place. 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 we are supposed to fix all the injustices, all the wrongs, using all 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 when it counts; even to literally put our life on the line. But we must remind ourselves the teaching is to love another as we love ourselves. We cannot love others more than we love ourselves and loving others can never be a substitute for healthy love of self.

1. What is your definition of justice? What is your definition of injustice?

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 on behalf of another?

3. When can striving for peace become un-peaceful? Can seeking justice ever become unjust?

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

5. Can you think of an example when you took a risk on behalf of another? What did that feel

6. Can we strive for peace for others if we do not experience peace within?

This is an excerpt from our 2012 8 Points Study Guide which you can purchase here

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