Love and Social Justice, Part 1

Love and Social Justice, Part 1 April 30, 2024

love and justice


Our title this week explores the connection of love and our awareness of what others around us are experiencing. Our gospel reading this coming weekend will again be from the gospel of John,

“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. You are my friends if you do what I command. I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you. This is my command: Love each other. (John 15:9-17)

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As much as I compare and contrast John with the other synoptic gospels, there’s one difference in John that I appreciate. The Johannine gospel, more than any of the other gospels, emphasizes and centers on love. But how we understand what this looks like makes a huge difference. John emphasizes our learning to love one another. As I’ve said before, it’s easy to preach a gospel about Jesus that only speaks about how God loves us. It’s much more difficult to preach the gospel that the Jesus in the stories preached, the gospel that teaches us how to love each other. 

There is a way to take this theme into a way of life that looks nothing like Jesus. In that kind of life, the focus on God’s love is inward focused, with goals that are inward experiences of spiritual ecstasy or bliss. This becomes an escape from our present world, either to drown out what is happening to us or in a way that leaves us oblivious to and unconcerned about what is going on for others around us. 

It is vital, whatever we say about love, the Jesus of the gospels, and the Divine, that these beliefs about love transform us into more life-giving human beings. We can teach, preach, and believe in love, and still not let those beliefs become anything more than mental assent to ideas. We must choose to apply our beliefs about love not just to how we imagine God relates to us, but also to how we relate to one another! In fact, it is by applying our beliefs that we test our ideas of what love is and discover which of our ideas about it are life-giving and which are instead harmful. 

John’s gospel, which emerged out of the Johannine community, emphasizes loving one another more than the other gospels, even more than the gospels that emerged out of the Markan, Matthean, or Lukan communities. We’ll consider a possible explanation for this, next.

(Read Part 2)


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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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