How to live as God's people
Quarter: Jesus and the Just Reign of God
Unit 2: Jesus ushers in the Reign of God
Sunday school lesson for the week of January 12, 2014
By Helen & Rev. Sam Rogers
Scripture: Luke 6: 17-31
Background Scripture: Luke 6: 17-36
As the lesson continues in Luke chapter six, we move from conflicts over Jewish laws regarding the Sabbath to Jesus’ teaching about how we are to live justly in the world as the people of God. (Please remember that this quarter’s theme is “Jesus and the Just Reign of God.” This theme of Biblical justice will be expanded later.) In Luke’s version of the teaching normally associated with the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, the student will discover significant variations in word and meaning. Remember, each Gospel must stand alone and has its own message. With Luke’s emphasis on the last, the least, and the lost, we should not be surprised with his unique way of reporting what Jesus said.
The comparison of the “more spiritual” Sermon on the Mount in Matthew with Luke’s Sermon on the Plain is instructive to say the least! The poor, the hungry, the grieving and the hated mean just what it says. Often we want to soften Jesus’ teachings to make them more compatible with our lifestyle. Luke will not let us do that! As uncomfortable as we may be with Luke’s version, we still must take him at his word and deal with the basic meaning.
Frequently we hear some Christians admonish us to take the Bible literally. Well, now’s your chance! Like in Mary’s Song (the Magnificat), the values of the world as it is begins to be turned upside down. The ways of the Kingdom are so very different from the ways of the world. People, then and now, struggle mightily to cope with the personal changes required for real Kingdom living.
Because Luke has the antithesis of the poor, the hungry, the grieving, and the hated in verses 24-26, we have no “wiggle” room. Our addiction to status and wealth easily places us in the categories of the rich, the well-fed, the pleasure-seekers, and the approved. In fact, for many, this is the goal of life, and they strive with great expenditures of energy, money, and time to achieve what Luke precedes with “woes!” If our children copy what they witness in our behavior, we are definitely passing along the very behavior which will result in the judgment of God. You say, “Whoa!” We say, “Listen to what Jesus is saying.”
In fact, Original Sin may have its origin right here! The egocentric self which Adam and Eve epitomized in the Garden is the root of all sin. What is more self-centered than the accumulation of wealth, over-indulgence, seeking pleasure and the hunger for the approval of others?
After coming to grips with this understanding of Luke’s teaching of Jesus about how we are to live in the Kingdom of God, what response can we have? The only one is Paul’s in Romans 7 where he sees himself as a slave to sin with no way out! At this point, when we are in the depths of our despair, hopelessly snared in the ways of the world, Jesus comes! Praise God!
He comes, not only “to save,” but also to redirect our lives into a just way of living. We think of justice as retribution – of crime and punishment – of rules and penalties for disobeying the rules. Justice as doing good is the basis of the Biblical covenant between God and Israel. Micah 6:8 is a classic statement of this truth. “He has shown you, O Man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you but to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (NIV)
When you consider the Ten Commandments, six of them are concerned with relationships with neighbors. Justice is how you treat your neighbors – and remember how Jesus defined “neighbor” in the story of the Good Samaritan! Our conduct toward others is a critical component of living in the Kingdom. Thinking this way means justice is not about punishing what is wrong, but practicing what is right.
Then Luke moves from the woes to those who have missed living in the Kingdom to more topsy-turvy statements in verses 27-31: statements like loving your enemies, treating the hate-filled with goodness, blessing those who curse you, and praying for those who mistreat you. Can you believe this unrealistic, other worldly stuff? Yes you can, because that is just what it is – the world where God reigns. The Kingdom Jesus inaugurates on earth is where God’s will is to be done, as well as in heaven.
Martin Luther King and many others took those words quite seriously. Practicing that kind of living is very costly. The down payment on the Kingdom was made at Calvary, and there are still periodic payments to be made to continue the privilege of living in the Kingdom. The world denigrates such people by calling them “do-gooders.” If we read the Bible correctly, we all are called to do good – be do-gooders!
John Indermark in the Lesson Annual makes the following assertion:
God’s people are called to love – and not just the ones we share the pews with, or whose values and philosophies mesh with ours, or who we can depend on to love us in return. Jesus calls the people of God to love to the max: to bring love and to seek good even for the ones who have no intention of reciprocating. For if evil and hatred are ever to be transformed, that transformation will not come by responding in kind, but rather by such love about which Jesus spoke but also lived. You see, when all is said and done, Jesus was a do-gooder.
When you read Luke 6:31, do you remember what it is called? “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” What’s the value of this gold?