When attempting to understand peace and justice issues, I believe it is important to consider how themes intersect. That’s a pretty basic, noncontroversial statement. Intersectionality matters.
Also, I think I wouldn’t raise much backlash by suggesting that much of Western “progress” has come from it’s ability to dissect, differentiate, compartmentalize and specialize. This is true whether one considers biology, quantum physics, the industrial revolution, or even larger systems of academia or society as a whole. And then suddenly we must deal with that word system.
We have this tension between understanding the parts and understanding how the parts function in systems at the point of intersection and interdependence. Somehow we need to grasp both the micro and the macro.
And I find this in biblical thought as well. Individual themes are stressed at various points, but often multiple elements are brought into tension, or into relation. For example, compare these two verses in the third chapter of John (emphasis added):
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not perish but may have eternal life. (John 3:16)
Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever disobeys the Son will not see life, but must endure God’s wrath. (John 3:36)
We might expect John to contrast belief and unbelief/disbelief; however, he instead contrasts belief with obedience/disobedience. So we wrestle with the intersection of belief and obedience in the Christian experience. [And us religious folk are great at focusing on minor things like tithing and forgetting Jesus’ priorities of “justice, mercy and faith” (Matt. 23:23).]
We find pairs of words or themes throughout scripture, forcing us to consider how the ideas relate to each other, how they intersect:
- love and obedience (John 14:15–15:10; Matt. 7:21-23 & 25:31-46)
- love for God and love for others (Mark 12:28-34; Matt. 22:35-40) [and the second elements brings together love for self and love for others]
- justice and righteousness
- justice and peace
- and the list goes on…
It is good to study individual words, verses or themes, but may we also be mindful of the intersection of these various parts. Just as there are surprising emergent properties in biology as we look at higher and higher systems, I believe we find the same in moving from micro to macro levels of ethical and spiritual reflection and experience (two more sets of intersections there–ethical/spiritual & reflection/experience).