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Apr  2015 28
Nurturing Leaders: Leading in the Way of Jesus

Scripture: Mark 3:31-35 

When my seminary adopted new public statements three years ago, we included the phrase “the way of Jesus.” *  Whatever else Christianity is, it is a way of being and doing, of “walking,” revealed in what Jesus said and did, which while it involves intellectual assent, is not primarily intellectual assent. Jesus’ way involves a whole life commitment; that commitment determines where and how we show up.

There were other “ways” in Jesus’ time that contrast with Jesus’ way. The New Testament is addressed to communities, and reflects the struggles of communities, resisting other ways.

  • The way of Rome was founded on keeping the peace and good order through violence, economic inequality, and patronage.
  • There were competing schools of thought among the Pharisees. Two Pharisaic perspectives were what scholars call a “politics of purity” and a “politics of compassion.” The former was a means of achieving a pure people, the latter a means of forming a compassionate people. The ways were competing visions of holiness.

The Jesus way counters the Roman way; the Pax Christi is rooted in a moral universe that flips the moral foundations of the Pax Romana. A great deal of the New Testament makes sense only if this inverted moral universe is understood. And the Jesus way is aligned with the politics of compassion, as evidenced again and again in the parables.

The Jesus way is summed in the dual commandment, the Lord's Prayer, suffering love for the sake of justice, and his teaching on family.

The dual commandment is to love God and love your neighbor as yourself.

The Lord’s Prayer, paraphrased:

Holy Daddy, replace the empire of Rome with your empire. We are hungry, indebted, and tempted to meet violence with violence. Give us food enough, forgive us our debts, and don’t let the Evil One tempt us to be like the Romans.

If we are not to meet violence with violence, what are the alternatives? Historically, there are several options, but the option most consistent with the Jesus way is suffering love for the sake of justice, which is the core of non-violent resistance.

Consider Jesus’ teachings on family. I think this phrase points to the essence: Your family is bigger than you think it is.

We should expect our leaders to be followers of the way of Jesus and equipped to foster communities that demonstrably follow the way of Jesus. I think such leaders would help Christians ask and live questions such as:

  • How do we evidence that we love God?
  • Who are our neighbors? How do we appropriately love them?
  • What does it mean for a person and for a community to be whole?
  • In what ways do we need to resist and seek to change imperial systems of violence and oppression in our own day (and democracies are not immune from imperial behaviors)?
  • How does a congregation increase its capacity for suffering love?
  • What would “Jesus’ family values” look like if put into action (I am certain such would look different from what has passed as Christian family values in many churches)?

Do you know leaders who help congregations think and act in these ways? If so, please encourage them. Do you know persons who might become such leaders? If so, tell them what you see in them!

Prayer: Gracious God, following in the way of Jesus is difficult, and impossible to do solo. Please open our eyes to companions and encouragers for the journey, and make me into a good companion and encourager of others.

*Phillips Theological Seminary offers theological education dedicated to learning the way of Jesus in order to cultivate vital communities, vital conversations, and the public good.

Browse more posts by: Gary Peluso-Verdend, Phillips Faculty
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