A World That Is Safe for Everyone (Part 3 of 3)

A World That Is Safe for Everyone (Part 3 of 3) March 9, 2023

A World That Is Safe for Everyone


As we wrap our focus on making a world that is safe for everyone, in our reading, we also bump into the Johannine pre-Gnosticism that I mentioned last week as we read the story of Nicodemus. Real water contrasted with the mystical water of knowledge (gnosis) that will give a person eternal life. Debates over worshipping God at a physical location rather than worshiping God in spirit and truth. The claim that God is spirit.


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(Read this series from the beginning at Part 1 and Part 2.)


In the exchange with the disciples, spiritual food replaces physical food. Concrete material harvests and how they were being exploited by Roman imperialism to the detriment of rural farming communities mentioned in the other gospels become a mystical, spiritual harvest.

All of this would later evolve into Gnosticism, which devalued what people experienced in their physical world, including injustice, oppression and real harm and encouraged Gnostics to gaining knowledge that would one day liberate their sprits/souls from being entrapped in physical existence.

Many sectors of Christianity today have much more in common with those early Gnostic communities than they do with the this-life and this-world focus of the Jesus of the synoptic gospels. I believe that commonality can be traced back to the gospel of John and its embrace of proto-Gnostic ideas and ways of looking at the world.of

The Johannine Jesus is very different from the synoptic Jesus we find in Matthew, Mark, and Luke. That’s not necessarily bad. We simply need to make sure we are interpreting John’s Jesus in a way that doesn’t ignore the very concrete harm many are suffering because of unjust systems. Today, we don’t need a form a Christianity that is so afterlife-focused that it merely anesthetizes its adherents so we passively bear present injustice, look toward afterlife bliss, and don’t challenge, transform, or liberate folks suffering from this unsafe, unjust, and death-dealing world.

Lastly, I am encouraged that this story ends with contrasting Jesus with Rome. Again, Rome and Caesar were both referred to as savior of the world. Although some later less life-giving forms of Gnosticism would interpret this “saving” as an escape from this life, today we can interpret Jesus and his teachings as offering a set of values and ethics that put us on a life-giving path. The path Jesus sets us on assists us in transforming our physical world into a just, safe, compassionate home for everyone, a world large enough to hold all our differences, where we are not simply tolerated but celebrated, and where we not only survive but we thrive. In this world, exploitation and extraction is replaced with reciprocity and sharing. There’s enough for everyone. And everyone can experience home.


Finding Jesus book coverHerb’s new book, Finding Jesus: A story of a fundamentalist preacher who unexpectedly discovered the social, political, and economic teachings of the Gospels, is now available at Renewed Heart Ministries.

About Herb Montgomery
Herb Montgomery, director of Renewed Heart Ministries, is an author and adult religious re-educator helping Christians explore the intersection of their faith with love, compassion, action, and societal justice. You can read more about the author here.

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