Skip to main content
Center for Action and Contemplation
The Seven Stories: Part Two
The Seven Stories: Part Two

The Seventh Story with Gareth Higgins and Brian McLaren

Wednesday, February 7, 2024

Gareth Higgins and Brian McLaren describe how Jesus invites us into the Seventh Story:

[Jesus] radically interrupted the six stories, saying that instead of getting stuff and keeping others from getting stuff, you can’t actually possess stuff for yourself alone in the first place. Instead of building walls, you are invited to show the same kindness toward your neighbor as you would want them to show to you, to celebrate his joys, to grieve her losses. Even more provocative: instead of defeating enemies, you are asked to love them. We call this the reconciliation-liberation story.

The most revolutionary, if you will, part of the Seventh Story … is this: in each of the six stories, humans are masters of “our” domain, the world is divided into “us” and “them,” and the purpose of life is to be a selfish economic unit, producing bounty to keep for yourself and your group. The six stories are all based on reacting to other people’s desire; they invite separation at best, and violence at worst; and they seek to avoid suffering…. And in a world where we have the power to destroy ourselves, they are evolutionarily inappropriate.

But in the Seventh Story, human beings are not … masters of “our” domain, but partners in the evolution of goodness.[1]

McLaren discusses freedom to create a better story, and how Jesus lived out the Seventh Story:

I think it would be dangerous if there was some version of the Seventh Story imposed upon everybody to achieve world peace. There is something about the Seventh Story that needs to be powerful without exercising power, and needs to be persuasive without backing people into a corner. Something about it has to involve freedom and discovery and choice….

What we need isn’t a storyline that wants to erase all the others. What we need is story space that invites people, in whatever story they’re part of, to stop and wonder, “I don’t like where this story is going, and I don’t like how this is going to end. Is it possible there’s a better story to tell? Could we make a change and find a better ending?” That, to me, is what good news is about. For example, Jesus went around saying, “Repent.” I don’t think that necessarily means we should feel guilty and shameful about things we’ve done. I think it means rethink the story of your lives and open yourself to a different and better ending.

Jesus doesn’t give up on his story, but to the very end, he lives this Seventh Story. In the resurrection stories, he doesn’t come back saying, “Okay, enough of that love story. I’m going to come back a second time to get revenge on all those people.” The story of the resurrection is, “Let’s keep this story going.” He tells his followers to go into the whole world and keep this story going. Jesus lives and dies by a story of love, and the protagonist of the story is love. [2]

[1] Gareth Higgins and Brian D. McLaren, The Seventh Story: Us, Them, and the End of Violence (Brian D. McLaren and Gareth Higgins, 2018), 122–123, 124. For further resources, see The Porch Community.

[2] Adapted from Brian McLaren and Gareth Higgins, “The Seventh Story,” Learning How to See, season 5, ep. 8 (Albuquerque, NM: Center for Action and Contemplation, 2023), podcast. Available as MP3 audio and pdf transcript.

Image credit: Joel and Jasmin Førestbird, Untitled (detail), 2018, photograph, public domain. Click here to enlarge image.

Stories are layered like the rings of a tree.

Story from Our Community:  

One of the gifts I receive from Daily Meditations is the words to name my own experience. When James Finley describes the deep peace that is possible in the midst of trauma, it reminded me of … [when] my 20 year old daughter was killed. In the midst of the most gut-wrenching grief, I felt God’s presence deep down. The pain and agony did not disappear but beneath those feelings, I also was aware of a sense of peace that I was loved by a present God. Thank you for reminding me of this. —Pat T.

Navigate by Date

This year’s theme

A candle being lit

Radical Resilience

We live in a world on fire. This year the Daily Meditations will explore contemplation as a way to build Radical Resilience so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or burning out. The path ahead may be challenging, but we can walk it together.

The archives

Explore the Daily Meditations

Explore past meditations and annual themes by browsing the Daily Meditations archive. Explore by topic or use the search bar to find wisdom from specific teachers.

Join our email community

Sign-up to receive the Daily Meditations, featuring reflections on the wisdom and practices of the Christian contemplative tradition.

Hidden Fields

Find out about upcoming courses, registration dates, and new online courses.
Our theme this year is Radical Resilience. How do we tend our inner flame so we can stand in solidarity with the world without burning up or out? Meditations are emailed every day of the week, including the Weekly Summary on Saturday. Each week builds on previous topics, but you can join at any time.
In a world of fault lines and fractures, how do we expand our sense of self to include love, healing, and forgiveness—not just for ourselves or those like us, but for all? This monthly email features wisdom and stories from the emerging Christian contemplative movement. Join spiritual seekers from around the world and discover your place in the Great Story Line connecting us all in the One Great Life. Conspirare. Breathe with us.