Did you ever notice that Jesus was always on the move?
He and the band were constantly traveling from one location to another throughout Palestine — teaching, feeding and healing those they encountered.
They never stayed too long in one place. Their work was bound to their progress and the next opportunity before them. To remain still and complacent meant progress would be stymied and people would be doomed to exist within stagnant systems and situations.
For Jesus, it was always best to move forward, even if forward meant personal sacrifice and loss. At the end of his earthly journey, Jesus came face to face with the darkest and cruelest of injustices. He met crucifixion.
Jesus let nothing slow him down.
While he respected tradition, he also knew God was in the business of revelation. While he appreciated orthodoxy, he built upon those foundations a new way to think about God.
While he admired his elders, he knew the future was for a new generation. While he understood ancient systems, he knew the damage they could cause.
Jesus moved forward, knowing the only way to overcome the sin and injustices of the world would be to challenge them with courage, boldness and hope in order to triumph on the other side.
It was risky. It was uncertain. But it had to be done.
Just as Gandalf the Wizard told Frodo Baggins in J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Fellowship of the Rings, “It’s a dangerous business, Frodo, going out of your door. You step into the road, and if you don’t keep your feet, there is no knowing where you might be swept off to.”
Jesus was progressive in every sense of the word because he dared to step out of his door. While he knew where he came from, he constantly looked forward, building God’s kingdom on earth as it was in heaven.
Simply put, I practice a progressive faith because I believe Jesus did so as well. For me, seven truths help define my progressive faith. I’ll share three today, and the other four tomorrow.
- Progressive faith means much more than a political or religious identity.
Unfortunately, the term “progressive” carries a stigma with it today. The “progressive movement” is primarily seen as a liberal concept, but nothing could be further from the truth historically.
There once existed both liberal and conservative progressives, which simply meant they wanted to move politics, law, theology and science forward toward a more prosperous future.
The reason progressivism is connected primarily to the more liberal wing of our culture these days is that most conservatives decided decades ago that cultural advancement was somehow harmful to society.
Conservatism became obstructionism, demonizing and thwarting any attempt in advancing thought through ideological exploration, inquisitive research and practical methodologies advancing new understandings and concepts.
The new obstructionist conservatism demanded conformity, stifling new thought and stopping progress.
With that said, my progressive faith does not mean I am liberal or conservative. I am constantly learning more about God and practicing my faith according to God’s ways.
If that makes me liberal in some people’s eyes, it says more about them than about me. I do not want my faith to ever grow stagnant and stale, for that seems to really displease God (Revelation 3:16-18).
Instead, I want my faith to flow like a river of living water.
Water moves downstream, always pushing, sustaining and creating. It pushes forward and gives life that sustains the delicate ecosystems nourished by it.
Finally, living water continues to create, moving rocks and dirt to create new paths and pools for more life to emerge.
A progressive faith follows the same truths, seeking to form and nurture a life for others.
- Progressive faith moves forward toward maturity.
Paul said, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways” (1 Corinthians 13:11).
Immature faith is important because it provides foundation and knowledge upon which to build. However, none of us would consider a foundation alone to be an adequate home to raise a family. It needs walls, a roof and so much more.
I will forever be grateful for my conservative roots. Those churches and leaders taught me the importance of Scripture and living out my faith in a bold way.
However, as I grew older, I sought to know more about God. My conservative roots seemed to want to remain stuck in an antiquated understanding of God and old ways to live out faith.
As my faith grew, I realized I had more questions than answers. Therefore, when my conservative mentors scolded me for asking such questions, I turned to the tool they first gave me: the Bible.
More importantly, I turned to the Gospels where I discovered a mobile Jesus reimagining the world through the eyes of God.
God never stopped working in the world. God was alive working in the here and now, opening my eyes to new ways divine hands and movements were bending the arc of the moral universe toward justice.
In other words, holding a progressive faith means I will always be a student sitting at the feet of Rabbi Jesus.
- Progressive faith acknowledges a starting point.
As a lifelong student, I must recognize a starting point for my faith education. Progressive faith does not mean we are untethered, to be blown about where the winds of the world take us. No. Progressive faith relies on an anchor firmly connected to the seabed of conscience.
Looking back to Paul’s statement, the apostle acknowledges when he was a child, he acted like a child. There is more to that statement than meets the eye.
Paul’s childhood education was important to the man he became. Granted, it took him a while and some misguided steps, but his starting point provided a compass to move forward.
As a Jesus-follower practicing a progressive faith, my starting point remains my faith centered around the person, teachings and actions of Jesus.
When I feel overwhelmed with the chaos of the world or frightened of questions that seem to have no answers, I return to the revolutionary carpenter from Nazareth who built a new way to see the world. His starting point was, and will always be, love.
Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series. Part two is available here.
CEO of Good Faith Media.