I’m doing some reading and writing on Luke 6 and particularly Jesus’ ‘Sermon on the Plain’ (6:17-49). A couple of excerpts from Luke:
Looking at his disciples, he said: ‘Blessed are you who are poor,
for yours is the kingdom of God.
Blessed are you who hunger now,
for you will be satisfied.
Blessed are you who weep now,
for you will laugh.
Blessed are you when people hate you,
when they exclude you and insult you
and reject your name as evil,
because of the Son of Man. (6:20-22)
‘But to you who are listening I say: love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who ill-treat you. If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you. ‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful. (6:27-36)
What might you call the theology behind Jesus’ call to discipleship in the Sermon on the Plain?
An anti-success theology?
You are going to be poor, hungry, weeping and hated. This in contrast to being rich, comfortable, well-fed and well-respected (vv. 24-26). This is just slightly incompatible with the capitalist pursuit of wealth and happiness in the here and now.
A guarantee of suffering theology?
Enemies may, and probably will, do their very worst to you. Be ready for it.
A very-delayed gratification theology?
Blessings are promised now but are guaranteed only in the next life. ‘Rejoice in that day and leap for joy, because great is your reward in heaven.‘ (vs. 23) In the meantime in your suffering continue to have faith and trust in a future day of justice for you ain’t going to see it in this life.
A blessing of opposition theology?
To be persecuted for the name of the Son of Man is a privilege not a disaster. Don’t complain, embrace it.
A willingness to be hated and taken-advantage theology?
Love enemies in a way the boggles the mind of them and anyone else watching. It is going to be personally extremely costly – emotionally and financially.
A self-sacrifical costly love theology?
There is zero self-interest in this life to Jesus’ calls to love enemies. Love for the sake of it. Love because God is like that. Love as God loves whatever the cost.
Jesus the terrible salesman
Jesus is simply a terrible salesman.
Nothing about material comfort, security, the right to happiness, social standing. Not a word about how much we are loved by God. Not a mention of unconditional grace.
But instead a whole bunch of well-on-nigh impossible exhortations that are guaranteed to seriously inconvenience disciples’ lives.
Surely this sermon needs to be sent back to the marketing department for a serious re-write.
I wonder what the re-draft would look like?
Comments, as ever, welcome.