Believe and Obey

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A Most Radical Jesus

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Still on the Level

This coming week’s Gospel is Luke 6:27-38. This is a direct continuation of last week’s text, which sees Jesus continuing his sermon. Jesus is still on the level or the plain, which I think means that he is still in our world proclaiming the Good News. His message is for us in this world and on this plane of existence. It is not simply for the “heavenly places” or some ethereal out of touch locale inhabited only by God and other assorted celestial beings. As always, Jesus is calling us to live out our faith in this world in our daily lives.

This text sees Jesus getting a bit more specific in what living out our call looks like. Notably, he is not laying down a hyper-specific codex of rules and regulations. He gives some representative examples, but they come across more in the form of a general mindset. This is in keeping with Jesus’ usual practice of assuming that in any given situation we know how we are supposed to act. What is also notable is how stunningly radical this new mindset is that Jesus offers us.

What To Do Now

Jesus begins this teaching by addressing those that listen. I take this to mean those that hear and understand and believe that Jesus is Messiah and that we should therefore heed him. Jesus teaches that as his followers and believers we should mirror the radical nature of God’s love. This means radical forgiveness and action. This is the way we respond to the gift, by giving such witness as we can in the way Jesus taught us.

The thing that is so strikingly radical about this is that it is not in any way reciprocal. It is totally unilateral. Reciprocity is a high human standard. It is the basis of contract law and business relationships; you do this for me, and I will do that for you. There is nothing wrong with this, as far as it goes. Obviously, it does not go nearly far enough for God.

Jesus says to love those that hate you (verse 27). He wants us to bless those that curse us (verse 28). We are to turn the other cheek when struck (verse 29). We are called to give more than we are asked (verse 30). Then he lays out the Golden Rule (verse 31). This too is not reciprocal. We are to do unto others not as they do to us but as we would have them do to us.

Jesus then contrasts this radical mindset with the values of this world (verses 32-34). This world is reciprocal much of the time. Even sinners can act with reciprocity, so what, Jesus seems to say. So, what indeed. Believers are to try to obey a much higher standard. Trusting in God, as a response to his gift of grace upon grace, to aim for this higher, most radical standard marks us as God’s children (verses 35-36).

The Big Point

Underpinning all these teachings is the main point summarized in verses 37-38; don’t judge or condemn. Rather, we should forgive. As we forgive, we are forgiven. As we give, we are given. We are, out of our faith, to live as God acts. This means radical forgiveness and radical love for everyone in this world. This means even, perhaps especially, those who are our enemies. God’s love thorough his son Jesus is most radical. Our belief in this radical gift should prompt a most radical response.

Praise Be to God

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