The “great discourses” from the Gospel of John end with the prayer of John’s Jesus for the protection of his followers from the hatred of “the world.” Just as Jesus and God are one, so the followers of Jesus are one with Jesus and therefore with God, and those in the future who come to know Jesus through the message of the followers will also be admitted into the wholeness of God, Jesus, and the followers of Jesus. Jesus consecrates himself – he prepares himself to be the sacrifice – that will in turn consecrate the followers and those who accept the followers’ message, and will reconcile and unify all these elements: God, Jesus, followers, and future believers. This is the heart of John’s theology and the theology of the Church that eventually was established by the Council of Nicea in 325 c.e. The rest of the story completes the metaphors of water and wine, baptism and communion, and the conferring of the Holy Spirit (the “spirit of truth”).
Rev. Dr. Matthew Fox worked out a theology that makes sense for post-modern, 21st century mystics who want to honor the Christ of John’s Gospel without forcing the text into impossible literalism. Fox’s “Cosmic Christ” evokes responsibility for the condition of all forms of life on Planet Earth, and confers the power to carry out the work that arises from that responsibility. Taking John’s Jesus at his word, when we know who Jesus was, we know God; we know the Christ – the wisdom and the spirit of truth that was one with God from the beginning. We then can know our own selves at that same level of wisdom and truth. We are then one with God, one with the Christ, and we ourselves then can take on the power and responsibility of being – embodying, incarnating – the Cosmic Christ. Fox writes,
Because we are Cosmic Christs and because we are called to birth the yet unborn Cosmic Christ, we are, like Jesus, prophets of order (justice) over chaos (disorder and injustice). This is why [Meister] Eckhart can declare that “all virtue of the just and every work of the just is nothing other than the Son – who is the New Creation – being born from the Creator. In the depths of our being, where justice and work are one, we work one work and a New Creation with God.” . . . There is only one work – the work of the Cosmic Christ who declared in the person of Jesus, “I and the Creator are one . . . Whatever the Creator does the Son does too. The Coming of the Cosmic Christ, pp. 138-139.
The difference in theology between the writer of John’s Gospel and progressive/liberal Christian exiles from traditional doctrine is that this identity with the Cosmic Christ is available to anyone who signs onto the work, whether that person accepts the first century myth of the resurrection or not. The work is justice-compassion. In Fox’s thought, justice must be combined with compassion, or it becomes chaos – injustice. But beyond justice-compassion lies non-violent, radical fairness. Non-violent, radical fairness makes justice-compassion distributive because retribution is no longer part of the discussion. John’s envelope has now been pushed to its 1st century limits.
In 21st century terms, to encounter the hatred of the world, to experience oneself as alien in the world, as John’s Jesus describes his followers, means to be engaged in the struggle for distributive justice-compassion. This struggle is not restricted to assuring economic safety-nets for the poor and elderly; those are the easy fights. Where alienation and hatred are met head-on is in the attempt to understand that unjust systems are the underlying cause of war and violent crimes against persons or property; and in attempting to create life-affirming consequences that can interrupt those continuous loops of injustice that give rise to crime and war. Taking the part of the shooter at Virginia Tech, or the one who opened fire on a Unitarian Universalist congregation in Knoxville, Tennessee, invites a collective social wrath that is justifiable from a systemic point of view, but completely misses redemption that is only possible in non-violent, radical fairness. In contrast, the response of the Amish community toward the man who slaughtered their children in their own schoolhouse stunned conventional thinking, perhaps because it came from a spiritual ethic that seems to elude most of us.
The Gospel of John defines a life-and-death struggle between the world ruled by Satan and those who live in God’s love as revealed through the Anointed Jesus. John’s Jesus goes to God, leaving his followers to deal with the world until he comes again. The mandate is to love one another, and do the same work of distributive justice-compassion in this life that Jesus did. The power to do that is granted through the Holy Spirit, conferred upon the followers at Jesus’ death. The promise is that Jesus will come back and take to God all who follow him, and believe that he was the one Anointed by God to restore God’s rule. But the work is to be done here and now.
John’s 1st century Gospel speaks to post-modern, 21st century cosmology to the extent that we experience God, the Christ, the Spirit, and humanity as one. To the extent we experience ourselves as the embodiment – the incarnation – of the Cosmic Christ, we experience John Dominic Crossan’s kenotic god, whose presence is justice and life, and whose absence is injustice and death.