Today’s first Mass reading comes form the second letter of St. John, a letter written to give advice on Christian living. In today’s reading, John warns that those who are so “progressive” as to not “remain in the treaching of the Christ” do not have God.
Given the widespread use of the term “progressive Christianity” today to describe what might be called a more “liberal” wing of Christianity today – a wing with an emphasis on social justice and a willingness to question tradition, it is important to understand what John was warning against. It is easy to take words out of context, so it is important not to put in John’s mouth our understanding of the term “progressive.”
John was concerned with a spiritualizing christology, that is with those who questioned the incarnation and death of Jesus. His concern was a matter of doctrine fundamental to our understanding of what it means to be Christian – acceptance of the birth, death, resurrction and ascension of Jesus.
As to other matters, I read John as concerned primarily with Jesus’ command to love. In the first lines of today’s reading, John writes, “I ask you, not as though I were writing a new commandment but the one we have had from the beginning: let us love one another. For this is love, that we walk according to his commandments; this is the commandment, as youu heard from the beginning, in which you should walk.” These words tell me that that one can “remain in the teaching of the Christ” and still call oneself a “progressive” Christian.