"The Christian who lives by faith has the right to justify his moral actions on the basis of his faith."
- Hans Urs von Balthasar, "Nine Propositions on Christian Ethics"
in Principles of Christian Morality (trans. Graham Harrison;
San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986 ), 77.
This has been an abstract discussion of a principle that makes more sense in the concrete. Jesus is the Christ and reflection upon our actions and ways of life (i.e. ethics) must first respond to that announcement. This can seem like too small or particular a starting point to sustain and shape the whole of life. Yet as we grow more aware of the contours of that reality and all that it encompasses, we are led deeper into the richness and complexity of our existence. In Christ, in that one word, we find the entire world and ourselves as well.
It might also seem like an irredeemably partisan commencement, from which no agreement or peace may ever be reached. This is both true, and false. It is true, because Christ makes claims upon the world and upon our lives that stand in tension with all other claims. No one can serve two masters. There are two ways to walk: one broad, one narrow. Those who are not for Christ are against him.
And yet walking the way of Christ is a peculiar kind of opposition to "the world". Christ is hostile to hostility, he takes captivity captive, he kills death, destroys destruction, opposes opposition, hates hatred, excludes exclusion; he loves the world. His is a battle in which he prefers to be killed than kill. His "party" can thus never be merely partisan. Christianity can never conceive of itself as one viewpoint amongst and against others, one religion amongst and against others, one lifestyle amongst and against others. "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood" (Ephesians 6.12). The way of Christ is a restless one, never content with the divisions and contradictions of human society, including the contradiction and division created when you simply try to dissolve such differences by a well-meaning but myopic relativism.
Therefore, the church, as the faction of Christ, can not be reduced sociologically to one cultural or political agenda. The church does not have a social program, it is not an interest group. Trusting in the God who raised Christ from the dead, it is to look not to its own interests, but to the interests of others. It embodies, and so holds out to the world, the promise of a society in which the interests and rights of one group need not be understood to be in competition with those of another. It believes and so pursues (imperfectly and provisionally) the common good.