By David Baumann
A Reading from the Gospel of Luke 6:27-38
27 “But I say to you who are listening: Love your enemies; do good to those who hate you; 28 bless those who curse you; pray for those who mistreat you. 29 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. 30 Give to everyone who asks of you, and if anyone takes away what is yours, do not ask for it back again. 31 Do to others as you would have them do to you.
32 “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. 33 If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. 34 If you lend to those from whom you expect to receive payment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. 35 Instead, 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 himself is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. 36 Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
37 “Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; 38 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.”
Yesterday’s lesson ended with Luke’s version of the Beatitudes, in which Jesus sharply contrasts the measures the world uses with the standards he sets up for the faithful to follow. Today’s lesson extends that teaching. In short, what Jesus says is this: If you do things the way the world does, “what benefit is that to you?” Commitment to Jesus means following a different standard altogether, and that standard is God’s. Disciples must “Be merciful, even as your Father is merciful.” They are commanded to “love their enemies,” “bless those who curse them,” and “pray for those who abuse them.” They must not condemn others — even when those “others” have truly earned condemnation.
Way down deep, the faithful are being invited and challenged to accept and live by a completely new standard. It is tough. If we take it seriously, we must answer these questions: Do you truly believe that God is merciful? Do you truly believe that love can overcome injustice and violence? Do you truly believe that the providence of God is more reliable than the security that possessions bestow? Are you truly willing to let God settle things in his own way and time rather than seek revenge, even if doing so would be just? Are you truly willing to see even the worst of human sinners as loved by God and hope for their redemption? Do you truly believe that doing all these things is ultimately the best thing for you?
The teaching of Jesus is both compellingly attractive in a way unlike anything ever taught by anyone else anywhere at any time — and incredibly difficult. That’s why he describes it as a “treasure” for which one must sell everything that one has. And seeing it in this way is how our week began.
David Baumann served for nearly 50 years as an Episcopal priest in the Dioceses of Los Angeles and Springfield. He has published nonfiction, science fiction, and short stories. Two exuberant small daughters make sure he never gets any rest.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of the Murray – The Anglican Church of Australia
The Diocese of Western Louisiana