Does Jesus Have Anything to Say about How We Relate to Others (and is anybody going to listen?)

Over at GospelFutures, Neil Williams (D.Th., University of South Africa and author of The Maleness of Jesus: Is It Good News for Women?) has begun a new book project Chasing the Wind: The Quest for Relational Transformation.

The issue, in a nutshell, is how the life and message of Jesus can be truly transformative in our relationships.

No this isn’t a self-help book about how to get along your spouse or in-laws. Williams is after a much bigger, and more controversial, issue: the ethics of how Christians relate to those around us in our diverse and changing (actually, “having-changed”) world? Here’s how Williams explains the project:

How are relationships transformed?—our relationships with other people and with our environment?

What resources does Christianity have to aid transformation? And are these resources enough, given the checkered history of the church?

Take as one example—a notable problem plaguing our species is tribalism. Raiding and war for resources and territory has gone on for tens of thousands of years and possibly longer. Furthermore, in documented history, religion has played an active role in conflict. And today, Christianity often promotes an insider-outsider mentality.

There is, however, an inbuilt critique seen in the life of Jesus and the gospel story. It is difficult to read and interact with the accounts of Jesus without noticing his relational integrity with and love for outsiders—for people on the fringes of society, for people whom society shuns and excludes. This book will draw on such resources.

Fellow GospelFutures founder Peter Kress explains Williams’s project this way:

Neil’s take on transformation and moral action represent a necessary evolution from law based ethics through situational ethics which recognized a keen sense of humanity’s changing context and structure and the need to condition moral choices toward practical outcomes towards a relational basis for human endeavor, service and collaboration.

Psalm 84 suggests that the measure of blessed living is not what someone does, but what their wake looks like. Do deserts become gardens in their presence or do gardens become deserts? In some sense my goal is more than to love you, but that you are loved.

Neil’s book explores how the gospel of Jesus becomes inspiration, context and power for relational living. Our relationships are changed as we find ourselves living in and through the story of Jesus. In this context we need to grapple deeply with the biblical meme that we only find life as we lay down our lives for others. Here we experience suffering/service as context, consequence and conduit of both breaking and renewing relationships.

I am expecting to continue to be personally challenged through both the process and the product of Neil’s project.

This book is a Kickstarter project. I’ve become a backer and I hope you find this project worthwhile to become a backer, too.

  • Bryan

    I just want to say how much I appreciate Neil’s upcoming project. I have just completed my seminary work and have traversed from a conservative evangelical position into a much more liberal leaning (I hate the terms conservative/liberal) inclination let’s say. I am currently reading Christian Smith’s ‘The Bible Made Impossible’ where I found a wonderful quote from you, Pete. The discussion was pertaining to the destruction that biblicists leave in their wake, namely, faith that has been lost or is struggling when confronted by a non-biblicist. Essentially, what was said is that God is not honored when we play ‘make-believe’. I greatly appreciated this statement. I have to wonder how many evangelical conservatives have gone through the same amount of turmoil that I had endured while at seminary…and were completely unprepared for it. In the aftermath, I feel that my education has caused an alienation from the conservative Christian community because I do not have people with whom I can speak concerning theological issues. It is an odd feeling to feel so marginalized after having such a great experience while at seminary. This will be a book that I will look for in the future. It is a much needed discussion, in particular, for seminarians such as myself who now see that a biblicist approach does not work.


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