A reflection on Luke 6:27-38 for the Seventh Sunday After Epiphany, February 20, 2022.
‘…But I say to you that listen, Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.
‘If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. If you do good to those who do good to you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners do the same. If you lend to those from whom you hope to receive, what credit is that to you? Even sinners lend to sinners, to receive as much again. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return. Your reward will be great, and you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.
‘Do not judge, and you will not be judged; do not condemn, and you will not be condemned. Forgive, and you will be forgiven; give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap; for the measure you give will be the measure you get back.’
Luke 6:27-38 (NRSVA)
There is a temptation to read the Sermon on the Plain as a re-laying down of Mosaic law. Here is a second legalism – a suspiciously similar replacement to laws that cannot change the heart. Worse, we can see in Jesus instructions nothing beyond another demonstration of the gap between our ways and God’s.
Neither approach is adequate – nor faithful to the message Jesus presents.
The heart of the passage above reveals a very different motive: ‘Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful.’
Jesus is articulating the deep nature of God and of the reality of the universe God created. ‘Love your enemies’, if Jesus life is taken seriously as the pique revealing of the heart of God, is a statement about God’s approach to the world. The same could be said for doing ‘good to those who hate you’, praying for those who ‘abuse you’, and offering ‘the other’ cheek, your coat, your shirt, and ‘goods’.
Here is a call to ‘…love your enemies, do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return.’ The promise attached: ‘…you will be children of the Most High; for he is kind to the ungrateful and the wicked.’
Do this…because God does. Follow the creator of the universe (rather than anyone or anything less).
A Richard Roar put it, ‘God could only ask us to be what God also is’.
This sermon, at its heart, is a radical re-articulation of the stance God takes in relation to the world – and a simple invitation to adopt it as our own.
This is an invitation to return to – and learn from – the merciful one in whose image we are created – an invitation to be children of the perfectly loving ‘Father’.
How do you approach the sermon on the Plain? Do any of the approaches in this article ring true to you?
How would you describe the ‘mercy’ of God?