We’ve been going through Luke’s gospel the past few weeks and today we find ourselves in the middle of the Sermon on the Plain. Before today’s selection, we heard about an abundance of fish being caught and that the hungry and poor are blessed.
The verses that come after today’s selection are Jesus speaking of wooden planks sticking out of people’s eyes and people’s houses getting washed away (which might hit a little too close to home for us). A lot of the “before” and “after” of today’s verses are stories from which we need to extrapolate meaning or reframe our mindset in order to comprehend.
Today’s selection, though, is a group of fairly straight-forward instructions.
Love your enemies.
Give generously to those in need.
Don’t judge people.
Treat others how you would like to be treated.
For all of you head-types out there, who enjoy clear instructions and thought processes, these are your verses! For the most part, it is a very clear checklist on acting in such a way as to be a follower of Christ. It’s not necessarily an easy checklist, but it’s a clear one.
It’s also not a finite checklist on “being a disciple of Christ.” You can’t check these all off and then sit back and be smugly satisfied with completing the tasks at hand, such as at the end of a long work day. These instructions are a part of Jesus’ overall message, leading to a holy and sanctified life.
Stephen G. Ray, Jr. notes that “Jesus is not suggesting simply an ethical system, but rather a way of being in the world which reflects the ways that God is in the world.” (Preaching God’s Transforming Justice, Year C). These are not one-and-done actions; they are life-long. These are lifelong instructions on making God’s presence known in the world around us.
Take note, too, that this list is not directly about changing your feelings, it’s about changing your actions. Love your enemies - implying that you will have someone you view as an enemy. Do not judge - implying that there would be a person to judge.
Kathryn Matthews makes a great point, however, in that she found when she acts more lovingly toward an individual or group of people, she starts to feel more lovingly toward them, as well. The action leads the feeling.
If this “checklist” feels overwhelming to you, make sure you don’t lose sight of its overarching meaning: to treat others as you would want to be treated.
If you said something to another person that upset them, how would you want them to respond to you? Would you want them to snap back with an equally offensive comment? Would you want them to let you know that the comment wasn’t acceptable to them?
When we take each moment as a lesson in how to grow as Christ’s disciples, it may not be as overwhelming. It is how we learn to treat others as we want to be treated. It is a part of us being sanctified - fancy word to describe a Christian’s journey in faith, which we will discuss at tomorrow night’s Progressive Pints (shameless plug). It is a part of our faith journey to learn at each bump in the road how to forgive, how to love, how to lend, how to not judge.
So, this week, I want you to think of one way - inspired by today’s Scripture - that you can work on becoming a little more like Jesus. Maybe praying for that person at work or in your neighborhood that gets under your skin (which will be mine). Maybe catching yourself before judging that person you just don’t understand. Maybe doing a favor for another person without expecting something in return.
By reflecting on these, we grow a little bit more in understanding our faith and in showing this world God’s amazing presence.
Scripture: Luke 6:27-38