(Orthodox Icon of Saint Luke)
Sometimes I don’t know if I get how truly extreme Jesus’ was. This stuff he says is not “nice.” It’s not nice teaching that builds a nice church with nice wall decals that say nice things.
These things he’s saying…they are are keep-you-up-at-night things. Literally, I have lost sleep over this.
Here are some words Luke attributes to Jesus –
The same Jesus who called Peter Satan for wanting to win and not surrender…that Jesus.
The same Jesus who, being wiped with the hair and tears of an unnamed woman, knew exactly the kind of people who were in the room with him.
The same Jesus who really, really hated when people made money off the people he wanted to let in the gates….that Jesus.
The same Jesus who broke all sorts of rules because he wanted to help people become whole, one hand, foot, eye at a time.
The same Jesus who saw mourning and felt compassion, who saw loneliness and felt compassion, who asked people what they wanted and then gave them that…..that Jesus.
The same Jesus who had zero issues sleeping through big fat scary storms.
The same Jesus who made way more wine than anyone could drink, because he wanted to. THIS JESUS.
HE SAID THESE THINGS. And they are not easy things. Here’s a snippet of his words, all from Luke 6 . I’m writing them out and then in brackets are my honest, sometimes sarcastic, pretty common (but not always said out loud) responses to them:
Do good to those who hate you. (Uh…no thank you)
Bless those who curse you. (My words will not be thrown to swine)
Pray for those who mistreat you. (Well….specify what do you mean by pray….)
If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn the other. (Actually this one is hard – I’m ok if this is for people in power, but I feel a deep hesitancy to tell anyone who has been abused or been counted out or disempowered or disenfranchised to do this….and in fact I won’t. This is problematic if used in the wrong hands….)
If someone takes your coat, give him your shirt too. (But…wouldn’t they rather work for it—..)
Do not demand what is yours back. (But…my rights)
Do to others as you would have them do to you. (ok, this one I can get behind – its vague enough to sound good – and would make a great wall decal)
If you love someone who loves you, that is nothing special. (….hey….)
If you are nice to someone who is nice to you, you deserve zero credit for that. (ouch)
But Love your enemies. Across that line, across that line, love them. Do good to your enemies. Give them money without expecting anything back. (This honestly makes me ask, who is my enemy…..who is against all that I am for? Someone who hurt me? A group of people who want to take my life, my meaning? Just people I’ve always been told are bad? This is so hard-I’m being honest now)
Do not judge anyone. Or you will be judged.
Do not condemn lest you be condemned.
Forgive and you will be forgiven.
Give and you will be given to.
For the measure you use in life towards others will be the measure used towards you.
Do not look at the speck in your brothers eye when you fail to see the plank in your own.
Hypocrite! – take out the plank and then you can see clearly. (….Why do we think he was meek and mild – he was extreme and very unambiguous when it comes to how we treat other people!)
Each tree is recognized by its fruit –What comes out of someone’s mouth comes straight from their heart. (This is the truest thing and….and the hardest thing)
AND THEN THERE IS THIS.
If you are listening to these words and saying you are following me but you are not doing THESE WORDS? Then your house is on sand – it’s going to fall, it’s going to wear down, it’s not going to last. It will lie in ruins.
IF you put THESE words into practice, then you might have something that is sturdy and solid, you might be on solid ground.
And every Christian leader, who is trying to build anything, said……oh….
Those words? Are you talking about those words specifically, Jesus? Because I always thought the solid rock meant…well, whatever church said. Jesus “generally” as the solid rock….I never heard it used in reference to loving your enemy as the solid rock. Or taking the plank out of your own eye being the solid rock. Or not judging, not condemning, giving generously to those who are not going to give it back….those aren’t the solid rock words you’re talking about…..are they?
Jesus words as the solid rock could mean all the things he spoke about, all the ways of God he embodied, but in any case the solid rock definitely mean these words too.
So here’s the thing – honest talk– if I, a Christian, am trying to build something, a ministry, a church, a life, and I am not practicing this extreme kind of kindness, forgiveness, generosity, love? Well, I might honestly actually get somewhere. I still might actually build something people want to come to – I mean, if I’ve got a style that connects, I will probably attract a lot of people …and most likely people with the same brand of plank-I-ness that I have. (What’s pretty clear, if you have read scripture –or have eyes and leave the house once in a while – Crowds and lots of people cheering for something are probably not the best guage for something being actually true – Those bible crowds around Jesus were fickle.)
Anyways, I could build something without these words and it might even be good.
But to build something solid, that houses, and shelters, and becomes a home for many? Something solid that will not fall down, or even wobble when winds and rain come?
That kind of shelter has to be built on something more than crowds….On something spelled out rather clearly. Something like not judging, not condemning and abundantly loving enemies…(gah, seriously why this one! There are so many awful people out there). On something like not gleefully, excoriatingly, pointing out the speck in someone’s eye without being honest about the huge plank in your own… this is what builds a solid shelter, a useful home.
This is the foundation that God can work with.
Maybe because it recreates people who know they don’t have all the answers? It definitely would create space to listen more. Which creates open space in their lives for different people, new voices, new possibilities?
Maybe it starts to remove the shield of sin and pain we have around us to see others as just as beloved and in just as much need as us?
Maybe it unifies us in our humanity, broken and still in the image of God. Maybe it keeps us from unifying around our ability to not be “those people”?
Maybe, these words get to the root of what goes on in the broken human heart. Maybe it has to go that deep to be a good foundation.
Maybe, to have the honesty and strength to do any of this, would require such a radical overhaul and loosening of our own pain and inviting that at-the-root healing and wholeness in our own hearts so that we don’t have to hold on to our control – an overhaul that would transform us at that ridiculously honest depth into something we never knew could be, and put us together with others into the kind of house that the world has always longed for.
At any rate, in Luke, it’s what Jesus says will build the solid foundation….I mean, it’s right there. And maybe that’s exactly the foundation that has shaped a church that started with a couple exhausted and griefy women at an empty tomb. Maybe the strength and firmness of that foundation are why we still can’t quit this.
And it’s keeping me awake at night.
As I think it should be.
a necessary postscript
As I was thinking this week about these scriptures and about how one could read these scriptures as a reason to not be political. i.e. “How could we have a political stance in this world and not judge? I better just stay out of it and not judge.” But Jesus isn’t a-political. He is anti-judgment, because of what judgement does in our created hearts and to the image of God in others. He tells us in no uncertain terms to cross that line and love our enemies because of what that does in our created hearts and to the image of God in others. And it strikes me that his stance on the high value of humanity to God, who he embodies and what that embodied presence of God does would be VERY POLITICAL. The word politic comes literally from its greek usage to mean “of citizens” and “pertaining to public life.” In this way Jesus is very political. Loving (forgiving, not judging, caring for, reconciling with) your neighbour will have enormous consequences for HOW we do public life together. Following Jesus will be political, in that our “politics” will change how we treat others, in this life together. Drastically.
We’ve been told.