Thursday, November 11, 2004

Reflections on the Jesus I Know...

But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.

But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.

Luke: Chapter 6, Verses 27-31, 35-38

This passage in the Gospel of Luke seems to get boiled down to one phrase and then glossed over. I believe this passage is a key passage to understanding the difference between those who say they are Christians and those who are Christians. This proclamation is not a judgment. I do not condemn those who say they are Christians but are not, I am merely disappointed with them. I also hope that my progressive friends who do not share my faith can see the progressive side of faith as it shines through in these verses.

Do to/for others what you would want others to do to/for you...

Squeezing this passage down to just this verse does the Christian faith an enormous disservice. While the actual living-out of this verse by every person who claims to be a Christian would be a progressive revolution unto itself, it is important to see the text before and after it as well. It reminds us that "Do unto others" is not a phrase to remind people to treat us well, it's a command for us to treat others well. Here it is, in the Bible, from the mouth of Jesus, an emphatic call to reject revenge, retribution, divisive behavior, condemnation, and judgment. Jesus tells us that his desire is to see us accept one another and serve one another in a beneficial way even if we disagree with each others' lifestyles, beliefs, positions, status, etc... It means that, as a Liberal, I will not deny a Conservative the assistance they may need. It means I will not exact revenge on a person who has slighted me. It means that I will love those who are unlovable. If one thinks being the president is hard work, try being a Christian the way Jesus intended. This is a passage that needs to be read and reread by every Christian in every congregation everyday until we get it and live it. I do not always get it or live it, but we can no longer accept Christian condemnation of a multitude of social practices in light of this verse. We must realize that if we proclaim a radical and thorough trust in Jesus and God, then we must shed every aspect of our condemnation and judgment of others, as directed by Jesus. If we are to err on an incorrect interpretation of scripture, let it be that we always err on the side of grace and love as found in Jesus’ life and God's message through Jesus.


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