Love to blow your mind!
“Be merciful, just as your Father in heaven is merciful.” (vs 36)
It’s become quite acceptable these days to use exaggeration and hyperbole to make a point – especially a political point – but I have to say that today’s Bible reading has the capacity to truly BLOW YOUR MIND!
What Jesus teaches here, is so radical and so fresh and new that even today his words astonish us, as we hear Jesus open up such a different world view from our own that it leaves us gasping.
Luke has already made it clear that even before Jesus utters a word the “power came out of him” and he healed those in need of wholeness. Luke tells us that people found peace and liberation from whatever their anxiety or depression or despair or alienation or guilt, their pain and anguish – simply by being in the very PRESENCE who seemed to deal with what were called at the time, “evil spirits.”
That’s pretty mind blowing…? But we’re not there yet!
Luke has also reveals the MAVERICK JESUS, the law breaker, who dares to challenge the pettiness of the Pharisees and their insistence that the law be obeyed to the letter, a RADICAL RABBI who heals a man on the Sabbath – breaking their religious law and shaming his opponents by putting the needs of the poor first and by showing that LOVE has the final word.
That’s pretty mind blowing…? But we’re not there yet!
And then Luke shows Jesus choosing the 12 disciples – a right motley crew: Awkward and broken and argumentative and opinionated and prejudiced and lazy and arrogant and boastful, and ambitious and greedy… people just like US!
That’s pretty mind blowing…right?
And finally, Luke shows us Jesus saying: “I declare to you who are listening.”
Which, in his native Aramaic, Jesus could be saying: “Now, to you who are still listening!” I like that! Because Jesus here begins to describe the way in which those of us who are still listening to him, and are in a loving relationship with God, are called to live.
And what Jesus has to say really shakes up his hearers. It did then, and it still does today:
In essence, this is it – God’s power, that flows from Jesus, will bring about a very different world, God’s world. That power will level the playing field no matter what human rules we have established to create and protect our positions of privilege and power over others. For all of God’s creatures to not only survive but to thrive in God’s Kingdom, there must be a very different ethos from those already in place. A radically different world view; a radically different political landscape; a radically different attitude towards others…
And in listing the imperatives required of those of us still listening. Jesus tells us that Love comes first and last! Of course it does. He helpfully spells out what that looks like too: Doing good; accept others; forgiving enemies; being generous; praying for others; blessing them with company and companionship; giving; doing. Doing, DOING. In other words, making LOVE REAL. Showing the world TRUTH. Being LIGHT in all the darkness. And why? “You must be merciful,” he says, “just as your Father in heaven is merciful.”
Let’s be clear: The lesson here is that those of us who say they follow Jesus are called to love …AS GOD LOVES, and as compassionately, and generously, and unconditionally!
Doing GOOD means having an openness to the truth that all behaviour has a cause, and we are called to look beyond the behaviour to what might be causing it and addressing the cause. Meeting that person in their trauma or fear. Not judging or punishing, but doing GOOD. Doing the LOVING thing.
Let’s not forget that Jesus was teaching this amazing stuff at a time when revenge and retaliation were seen as acceptable by many (as, sadly, they still are today by some) – “an eye for an eye…” So, what blew their minds was the way Jesus revealed this whole new way of thinking and behaving – and then gave them the nuts and bolts of how to live in this new Kingdom of compassion and justice for all.
But wait! Jesus goes further! (Of course he does!) He points to what ordinary people do, and do it well – even “sinners”, he says: “love, and they lend, and they do good.” In other words, they do the bare minimum, and they do OK.
BUT (didn’t you just know that was coming!) BUT for disciples of Jesus, for you and I, loving, lending, forgiving and doing good must be on another plain, another PLANET! Not the bare minimum, but the mind blowing MAXIMUM! And our motives should be pure… we’re not trying to score brownie points, or gain popularity, or be seen to be good, or even expecting to be paid back in return! WHAT?!!
For US, loving, lending, forgiving and doing good are about selfless, sacrificial service, and boundless generosity. Why? Because that’s what God is like. And we are God’s people. What Jesus is reminding us that love is all about wanting the best for others and acting on that wish. Making it real. Making it happen.
The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” which most major religions have enshrined in their writings, is insufficient for those who are children of God. What we wish for ourselves is not the benchmark for how we treat others. Rather, God’s own mercy, the way God loves, is the measure for how we treat others.
Jesus makes sure that we who are still listening are left in no doubt: that sharing that restoring love, and defiant hope is our calling. And THAT blows my MIND!
It truly is a radical teaching, and I know some of us might shy away from anything too radical, but let’s remember that the very word “Radical” stems from the Latin word “Radius” which can mean “anchor” or “rooted”. These radical teachings – this radical lifestyle is ROOTED in the very heart of God. Anchored in God’s longing for the world.
Those who were still listening to Jesus when he first spoke these incredible words, listened hard, because they were desperate to hear some truth, as we are. They were longing for relationship, as are we. Looking for peace and purpose, as are we.
They were hungry for hope, and a faithful relationship, where promises are kept, and roots go deep, and the truth is spoken and people can be trusted.
A relationship that is healing because it is based upon compassion and justice. A relationship that produces joy and enriches the whole planet and the people who live here.
Jesus’ words to those of us who continue to listen, can be trusted. They are true. He promises that we have a part in that new relationship too. We are called to live in God’s world amongst God’s people, in tune with God’s own character, and the power is there for us to do it, to be anointed, to banish the hostile spirits that hold us captive, to speak the truth to those in power and unveil a very different, radically compassionate way of life.
There is no shortage of problems and challenges and prejudice and lies and suffering out there in the world right now. What the world needs now is Love, sweet Love! And God needs US to be our very best. To love without limit or condition, as God loves. To live as if the Kingdom of God is here. Because when we do… it is!
Revd Martin Nicholls