This post is meant to offer guidance to common “what now” questions that could emerge from pastor J.D.’s sermon on Luke 4-7 preached at The Summit Church Saturday/Sunday March 19-20, 2011.
Jesus loves the poor, captives, oppressed, gentiles, tax collectors, and prostitutes. Before we ask ourselves, “Do we love them too?” there is more fundamental question we must ask ourselves. Do we belong with them? Are we reaching “down” to them, or are we with them being reached “down” to by their Christ?
Jesus made people angry by loving the “least of these” because His love said something about humanity in general. The establishment (political and religious leaders) of Jesus’ day heard what He said very clearly and they were insulted. They were insulted because they did not believe themselves to be “like” who Jesus loved and, therefore, they did not “like” who Jesus loved.
We must see that we are not only one in the Gospel, but we are also one in our need for the Gospel. We stand in the same line of grace. If we are offended by this, then we will not like who Jesus loves in two senses of the word “like.”
First, we will not think we are similar to or as bad as those Jesus loves. We will begin to think that we only needed redemption-light compared with “those others” who Jesus loves.
Second, we will resent those who Jesus loves because they “discredit” the caliber of organization of which we are a part.
If we are going to love those that Jesus loves, we must rid our mind of moral classifications of humanity. There are not first class and second class people. Socio-economic status, education, talent, charisma, morality, humor, technical skill, and loyalty do not “set us a apart” (the core meaning of holiness) in the way we are prone to think they do.
These attributes may have social, financial, relational, or emotional benefits and they can contribute to the ease and enjoyment of life. However, they do not make us different kinds of people and they do not change the substance of our nature. We need the same Jesus regardless of where we fit on any of these spectrums. A Russian novelist captured it this way.
“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?“ Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago.
Can you say:
I see my own reflection in every person Jesus loves.
Until you can, you will not understand and wrestle with the rage that Jesus elicited in His earthly ministry. When we are gripped by this understanding we will no longer be embarrassed to reach out to someone “beneath” us and no longer be intimidated to reach out to someone “above” us.
Take a moment to consider how many of our emotions and dispositions stem from the same grading-system-mindset that infuriated Jesus’ opponents: insecurity, offense, condescension, avoidance, intimidation, prejudice, and many forms of anger. How many ways does it slip into your daily conversation (i.e., “Wow, that person really married up.”).
Use these reflections to connect with the Gospel of Luke. See yourself in those Jesus loves and those who oppose Jesus, so that you can see your world and yourself through the lens of this account of Jesus’ life.