Grace Emerges

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Chapter 6 Part 2: Revolutionary Adventures in the Gospel of Luke

Revolutionary Adventures in the Gospel of Luke

Luke 6:27-49
by Brad Duncan

Join me on this adventure through the Gospel of Luke as I explore the revolution of God's grace poured out to us, and how it can lead to our fulfilling God's greatest plan to build his kingdom on Earth.

The Journey so far follows these themes: Preparation.  Incarnation.  Revolution.  Liberation.  Transformation.

Outline of Luke 6:27-49: Luke's Sermon on the Mount, Part 2
  • Love, Forgiveness and Generosity
    • Love for enemies (27,28)
      • Love enemies
      • Do good to those who hate us
      • Bless those that curse us
      • Pray for those that mistreat us
    • Give kindness when others treat you badly (29)
      • Offer the other cheek when someone slaps you
      • Offer someone your shirt when they take your coat
    • Treat people as we want to be treated (30,31)
      • Give to those who ask
      • Give/lend without asking for your things back
      • Treat people as we want to be treated
    • Explaining how we should have kindness like God's
      • Don't just love those that love us
      • Don't just do good to those that do good to us
      • Don't just lend to those who will repay you
      • Even sinners do those things.  Instead do the opposite
      • Kindness like this leads to a great reward
      • Kindness like this is how God loves people and is kind to people whether they love him or not and whether they are grateful or not.
      • We should act as God's children, and show kindness like God's kindness
      • Be compassionate, like God is compassionate
    • Treat others the way God treats us, further in the areas of acceptance and forgiveness
      • Just like God is compassionate, he also is accepting of us and forgives us
      • To be like God, we should not judge others or condemn them, but should forgive them like God forgives us.  
      • More directly: Forgive others so that God will forgive us.  The tone and direction indicates the importance of this teaching
    • Emphasis and summary about generosity
      • Jesus emphasizes this teaching further: if we do these things, giving to others generously, treating each other with kindness and forgiveness, God will reward us greatly
      • A "good portion", a full allotment, an overflowing basket, of good things (wouldn't we all like that!) will be handed to us because we are generous
      • The good portion will be linked to how generous we are, i.e., cause and effect: Give to others and it will be given to you by God
  • Hypocrisy and Blind Spiritual Leaders
    • The riddle of the blind leading the blind
      • If our spiritual leaders are blind to God's truth, they cannot lead us to God
      • Those that claim to be disciples should actually follow their teacher and be subordinate to him/her.  
      • Disciples who don't follow their master and try to lead others, are like the blind person leading another blind person into a ditch.  They actually need to follow their master in order to lead someone.
      • The riddle is saying that the spiritual leaders are not following God but are leading people astray.
    • The metaphor of splinters and logs
      • If you are going to try to point out some small detailed errors (sins) in another follower, it doesn't make sense, when you have such gross errors (sins) in your own actions and way of thinking.  You are blind to your own big sins but think you can see someone else's small ones.  (So again its the blind leading the blind)
    • The metaphor of trees and fruits
      • The tree is our inner self, the true condition of our heart
      • The fruit is our outwardly observed behavior, words and actions
      • Though we may think we are doing good, but are evil on the inside, it is impossible for our fruit to differ significantly from the tree that is producing it.  
      • Inner change is required for good to result
      • The opposite is also true: our actions that we think are good are actually evil, if they come from an evil source.
      • For example: words.  What we say with our mouth is a direct result of what is in our heart.  It overflows from within and cannot be controlled.  
      • We need to get the heart right in order to have true kindness on our words and actions
    • Hypocrisy vs. Integrity in calling Jesus 'Lord'
      • If people call Jesus 'Lord' they should mean it.  If they recognize his authority, they should follow it.  To do otherwise is hypocritical.
      • If people call him 'Lord' and take his teachings seriously, following them and letting them transform them on the inside, the result will be direct and significant
      • The teachings of Jesus are a secure foundation for living, and will help followers endure all kinds of hardships.  His teachings will stand the test of time, and empower believers to have great strength.  In other words, Jesus' teachings have real substance.  
      • He's referring to the above teachings in this chapter and to his ministry so far about how to participate in the kingdom of God.  Living a life of generosity and kindness, instead of hypocrisy and blindness, will give the believer a strong foundation for life.
      • In contrast, hearing all of Jesus' teachings, but then ignoring them, continuing to treat people badly (or as they may deserve), continuing to ignore your own sins while pointing out the sins of others, continuing to try to look like a follower of God but not recognizing his authority, will lead to destruction.  
      • The life you are building will crumble, because clearly you are going against God and his wisdom.  He won't help you build a kingdom that is opposed to his own kingdom!
From 'Who' to 'What'
In the beatitudes above, people listening could identify themselves with one or the other camp, they could see how they fit into the kingdom of God.  In his subsequent teachings, Jesus transitioned from talking about "who" were his followers, to talking about "what" his followers would do.  What would be their trademark?  How would God want them to act?  How will they be distinguished from those that oppose him?  The direct implication is that identifying with Jesus as one that fights for freedom, will lead to very significant and noticeable differences in the actions and words of his followers.

A 'Heart' Revolution
However, Jesus leads this discussion of proper actions with a surprising command: to love enemies.  This is not expected.  Any revolution, any fight for freedom, must certainly fight against enemies to win freedom for those enslaved, right?  Wrong.  This revolution cannot lead to more of the same.  Fighting over ideology, identifying enemies and destroying them, is counter to the kingdom.  In Jesus' eyes, fighting enemies is missing the point of the kingdom and just creating another struggle for power.

The new way requires a completely new, even foreign, concept of treating others.  The revolution of freedom vs. slavery will be a war of kindness vs. unkindness.  This lesson was lost on Christians (and other religions) throughout the ages that have taken up arms to fight about religion.  On the other hand, positive religious examples in history, such as Mother Theresa, Gandhi, and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., are heroes because of their role in leading revolutions of kindness and peace, while fighting for freedom for the oppressed.  They recognized that true revolution comes from heart change and contagious kindness, not from violence and hate.  That's why the kingdom Jesus is speaking about has been called the "peaceable kingdom".  The kingdom that stands for freedom, and so must always provide freedom to others, even those that resist it.  The challenge is directly posed to believers: you must learn to love your enemies.  If you get this concept you will learn to stand for freedom.

Cause and Effect
There is a clear connection between God's actions and ours.  This general concept was not new in Jewish teaching - people were taught that forgiveness of sins came through fulfilling rituals and following laws, so people's actions would lead to God's favor.  Also, teachers of the law generally understood that kindness was a overarching concept of the law (see Luke 10:25-29 for a teacher's summary of the law).  However, the new concept was that we should parallel God in our treatment of others.  We should experience God's grace, compassion, and kindness toward us, which we will receive as we participate in the new kingdom brought by the Messiah, and then we should mirror what we receive in our treatment of others.  This will expand God's grace, spreading it to others!  This will build the kingdom of God.

Those that do this, treating people as God treats them and as they would like to be treated, will in turn receive a great benefit.  They will experience life, they will be honored by God in this life, they will be strengthened and empowered to withstand the trials of life.  Even if they suffer in this life, they will receive a spiritual reward in this life as well as in heaven.  Jesus is again referring to the freedom that is being offered to those that join the Messiah, as well as to the slavery that naturally results from choosing a life of selfishness.

Two Camps
Taken as a whole this chapter shows two camps.  Those that stand up for freedom, grace, forgiveness and kindness will experience it themselves!  They will be identified through the kindness in their hearts and the actions that result.  They will be a strong and powerful force.  But they will be a force that loves their enemies.  Strength will be used for the cause of good and peace.  The revolution they fight for cannot tolerate hate and violence, or fighting for freedom using traditional means.  Instead the war they fight will be through spiritual victory and heart victory, through transformation, through rebirth.  It will lead to equality and freedom of those in the kingdom.

Those that oppose freedom will find themselves enslaved.  Those trying so hard to keep their own powerful status in society and righteousness before God, but resisting Jesus and his teachings, resisting kind treatment of others but instead judging them for the tiniest sins, those that find themselves inflamed at the idea of doing good deeds on the Sabbath and are willing to literally destroy Jesus as a result, those people will receive what they are giving out.  They will crumble.  They will be enslaved.  They will fail.  They will miss the kingdom that is right before their eyes.  How will this cause and effect occur?  It's clear that their freedom will not be taken away by believers, those that love their enemies.  It will not happen by God treating them badly (remind yourself of verse 35).  How will it happen?  Recall that those who seek their own power are unknowingly part of the kingdom of the devil himself (4:5-7).  They are enslaved already, and they continue to be enslaved by the consequences of their actions.  Their fight for control will lead to losing their power.  Those that hate their enemies, will fall to their own hatred!

An important side note: I want to point out that we also must avoid hypocrisy, especially in the area of judgment of other people's faith and ideology.  Luke does NOT teach us that those that don't believe in Jesus or agree with his teachings, will be punished by God.  God loves all people the same.  And so should we!  If we treat people badly or reject them because of their beliefs we are also missing the point of this chapter.  Instead, offer love and grace, as God does to you, whether you have faith or not.  Jesus talks about destruction that comes from other sources -- engaging in self-obsession and power-seeking while oppressing others will bring self-destruction.  Jesus' teachings show us how to live.  If we don't follow them, we can easily live in unhealthy, destructive patterns.  The devil's rule of the kingdoms of man is built on the promises of selfishness.  The point?  Love your enemies!  Love those that are not clearly on your side!  Love those that don't agree!  Accept them.  Treat them the same as your friends.  That's how God treats them.

This revolution will continue to play out throughout the book of Luke.  Jesus declares the good news of the kingdom, and the way to join his kingdom through heart change leading to kindness, peace and love.  Those that oppose Jesus revert to deception, hatred, and violence, sinking further from their "Godly" outward appearance toward joining forces with the devil.  The supposed victory of the opposition, when Jesus is crucified, leads to the greatest victory of the kingdom -- when Jesus defeats death itself in a landslide spiritual victory over the kingdom of the devil.  Everything Jesus says in this chapter plays out as ultimate victory for those in the peaceable kingdom.

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