The Seventh Sunday after The Epiphany
Pastor George Pejakovich
Luke 6:27-38

 


THE GOSPEL FOR TODAY IS A CONTINUATION OF JESUS’ SERMON ON THE PLAIN, AND HE TELLS HIS HEARERS RIGHT UP FRONT TO “LOVE YOUR ENEMIES,” AND TO “DO GOOD TO THOSE WHO HATE YOU.” THERE ARE SIX DIFFERENT WORDS FOR “LOVE” IN THE GREEK, AND THE WORD FOR LOVE HERE IS NOT ROMANTIC OR EMOTIONAL LOVE; IT IS AGAPE. IT IS NOT AFFECTION, OR LIKING, OR EVEN FRIENDSHIP. WHAT IT MEANS IS THE WHOLE-HEARTED, UNRESERVED, UNCONDITIONAL DESIRE FOR THE WELL BEING OF THE OTHER. NOTHING IS HELD BACK; THERE IS NO HESITATION, NO COUNTING OF COSTS, AND NO EXPECTATION OF PAYBACK. IT IS THE TOTAL DESIRE FOR THE GOOD OF THE OTHER. ODDLY ENOUGH, YOU MIGHT NOT EVEN LIKE THE OTHER PERSON, OR WHAT THEY DO, AND, IN FACT, DOING WHAT IS BEST FOR THEM MIGHT MEAN SPEAKING OUT AGAINST SOME OF THEIR BEHAVIORS; PERHAPS TO THE POINT OF AN INTERVENTION. YET, IF WE ARE DOING AGAPE FOR THE OTHER, THE WAY WE WILL EXPRESS OUR DISLIKE AND OPPOSITION TOWARD THEIR BEHAVIOR WILL ALSO SHOW OUR DESIRE FOR WHAT IS IN THEIR BEST INTEREST. JESUS GIVES US SOME EXAMPLES.

TURNING THE OTHER CHEEK HAS BEEN SO MISUNDERSTOOD THAT IT HAS LED TO UNTOLD MISERY FOR WOMEN AND CHILDREN IN ABUSIVE SITUATIONS. JESUS IS NOT TELLING US TO BE DOORMATS FOR OTHERS TO WALK ON; HE IS, IN FACT, GIVING US A NON-VIOLENT METHOD OF COUNTERING THE ABUSE BY OTHERS. IT WAS THE CUSTOM OF THE TIME FOR A MASTER TO DISCIPLINE A SLAVE BY STRIKING THE SLAVE ON THE RIGHT CHEEK WITH THE BACK OF THE RIGHT HAND. THE LEFT HAND WAS RESERVED FOR LESS SANITARY PROCESSES, AS IT STILL IS IN THE ARAB WORLD. IF A MASTER STRUCK HIS SLAVE, AND THE SLAVE THEN TURNED HIS HEAD TO OFFER HIS LEFT CHEEK, THE MASTER COULD NOT USE THE BACK OF HIS RIGHT HAND, WHICH WAS THE ONLY PROPER WAY TO DISCIPLINE A SLAVE. THE ACTION OF THE SLAVE WOULD BE AN ACT OF PASSIVE RESISTANCE, EXPOSING THE POWERLESSNESS OF THE MASTER, BECAUSE, IF HE DID ANYTHING ELSE, HE WOULD BE SHAMED AND DISHONORED. IT WOULD ALSO EXPOSE THE REALITY THAT THE MASTER-SLAVE RELATIONSHIP HAS NO PLACE IN GOD’S KINGDOM.

IT IS NOT A WELL KNOWN FACT THAT ONE COULD PAWN ONE’S CLOAK WITH A WEALTHY PERSON IF ONE NEEDED MONEY FOR THE DAY. ONE WOULD WORK IN JUST A TUNIC UNTIL BEING PAID AT THE END OF THE DAY AND THEN REDEEM THE CLOAK. THE RULE WAS THAT EVEN IF YOU COULDN’T SCRATCH UP THE FUNDS, YOUR CLOAK HAD TO BE RETURNED TO YOU. WHAT JESUS IS SAYING IS THAT IF THE ONE HOLDING YOUR CLOAK REFUSES TO GIVE IT BACK, THEN TAKE OFF YOUR TUNIC AND TOSS IT TO HIM, AND STAND THERE NAKED IN FRONT OF HIM. HIS SHAME AT BEING A SKINFLINT WILL BE GREATER THEN YOURS. AGAIN, AN EXAMPLE OF PASSIVE RESISTANCE.

ALL THE EXAMPLES THAT FOLLOW ARE WAYS TO LIVE THE LIFE OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD IN THE MIDST OF THIS WORLD, AND THEY OVERTURN ALL THE EXPECTATIONS OF HOW TO BEHAVE. JESUS IS CALLING HIS DISCIPLES TO A RADICAL REORIENTING IN THE WAY ONE INTERACTS WITH OTHERS IN THIS LIFE. IT IS A CALL TO DO AGAPE EVEN TO THOSE WHO DO NOT TREAT YOU WITH RESPECT; EVEN TO THOSE WHO WOULD DO YOU HARM. WHAT HE DOES IS EXPAND THE KIND OF WHOLE-HEARTED LOVE ONE WOULD EXPECT IN AN INTIMATE FAMILY TO THE WORLD AT LARGE. HE TELLS US TO DO GOOD TO OTHERS, ALWAYS SEEKING WHAT IS BEST FOR THEM. HE TELLS US TO BLESS OTHERS, BY LENDING WITHOUT EXPECTATION OF ANY RETURN. HE TELLS US TO BE MERCIFUL TO OTHERS, WITH THE SAME KIND OF MERCY THE FATHER IN HEAVEN HAS SHOWN TO US. HE TELLS US NOT TO JUDGE, OR CONDEMN, BUT TO FORGIVE.

NOT JUDGING OR CONDEMNING DOES NOT MEAN THAT ANYTHING GOES. ACTUALLY SOME THINGS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS, AND SOME BEHAVIORS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS. THIS IS A TEACHING AGAINST STEREOTYPING OTHERS; PUTTING THOSE WHO ARE DIFFERENT FROM US INTO CATEGORIES THAT STRIP THEM OF THEIR HUMANITY AND ALLOW US TO DISTANCE OURSELVES FROM THEM. ENEMY, STRANGER, SINNER ARE DISTINCTIONS THAT SEPARATE OTHERS FROM US AND PREVENT US FROM THE AGAPE WE ARE CALLED TO LIVE OUT AS THE DISCIPLES OF JESUS.

AS WE HEARD LAST WEEK THAT THE COST OF DISCIPLESHIP IS EVERYTHING, WE HEAR THIS WEEK HOW THAT FORMS OUR BEHAVIOR IN THIS LIFE AS WE LIVE THE VALUES OF GOD’S KINGDOM. IN THE LIFE OF AGAPE THE CONCERN FOR THE SELF BECOMES RADICALLY UNIMPORTANT; IT IS THE CONCERN FOR THE OTHER THAT IS THE IMPORTANT THING. THIS IS WHAT IT MEANS TO LOSE YOUR LIFE FOR THE SAKE OF THE KINGDOM. IT IS NOT EASY TO DO; IN FACT, BY OURSELVES WE CAN’T DO IT. AS WE HAVE SEEN IN THE EXAMPLES OF THE ORIGINAL DISCIPLES, THE DESIRE FOR A POSITION OF IMPORTANCE, AND THE RIVALRY WITH ONE ANOTHER IS NOT ELIMINATED BY BECOMING A DISCIPLE. THINK OF THESE TEACHINGS, IF YOU WILL, AS A PREPARATION FOR THE OUTPOURING OF THE HOLY SPIRIT WHICH HAS YET TO COME, WHEN THE ORIGINAL DISCIPLES WILL FINALLY GET IT TOGETHER.

WE, HOWEVER, HAVE BEEN BLESSED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT IN OUR LIVES, AND IT IS ONLY IN FOLLOWING THE PROMPTING OF GOD’S HOLY SPIRIT THAT WE CAN LOSE OUR LIVES IN HIS SPIRIT. IT IS ONLY GOD’S SPIRIT THAT WE CAN LIVE THE AGAPE LIFE; THE LIFE LIVED FOR THE SAKE OF OTHERS. IN THE GIVING OF OURSELVES, WE WILL FIND THE WONDERS OF GOD’S BLESSING FOR US; “A FULL MEASURE, PRESSED DOWN, SHAKEN TOGETHER, RUNNING OVER,” WILL BE PUT INTO OUR LAPS. OUR LOVE, OUR AGAPE FOR OTHERS, WILL REFLECT GOD’S WHOLE-HEARTED LOVE FOR US.
AMEN