Love and Social Justice, Part 2

Love and Social Justice, Part 2 May 1, 2024


As we continue our consideration of the relationship between the exhortation to love one another and social justice, 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 know that at that time there was division and strife in the Jesus community as some groups in the early church competed for power while other groups claimed their own validity and contesting others’. John’s gospel approaches these conflicts by casting a big tent, especially in its final chapters. By naming Peter, Mary Magdalene, Thomas, as well as John in these post-resurrection stories, each community that honored each of these apostles was legitimized, making room for them at the Jesus movement’s table, so to speak. 

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(Read this series from its beginning here.)

The community that would later gain the most power and orthodoxy was the group that recognized the apostleship of Peter. At the time John was written, though, the Johannine community was writing to a Jesus movement they hoped was big enough to also include those who recognized the apostleship of Mary Magdalene, Thomas, and John. The Johannine community’s gospel was calling this wider Jesus movement that practiced love for their neighbors and enemies (the synoptics) to also extend that love to “one another,” to their fellow Jesus followers in other groups. Even though some Jesus followers interpreted some of their community’s cherished sayings of Jesus and stories about him differently, they could all agree on the importance of Jesus and his teachings showing us how to go about shaping our world into a loving, just, and safe home for everyone. 

I often critique the gospel of John because of the differences between it and the other gospels. I feel these differences have at times led to harmful practices by Christians today who honor John above the synoptics. But with this week’s reading, I could not be more supportive of the Johannine community’s gospel. In this specific area, I feel they got it spot on. We agree on too much to foster divisions over the few things we see and interpret differently. The Christian religion today is very divided. And if we are ever going to become relevant to a world continually at war, we are first going have to learn how to be less combative within our own faith communities.

What might we also learn from the Johannine community’s call to, above all else, remember to love one another?

(Read Part 3)



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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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