29 July 2015

Luke 6:27-38

“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.” (vv. 35-36)

Psalm: Psalm 52


Like yesterday's passage, this would appear to be about the values of the upside down world of the followers of Jesus. Today's readers need to remember that this was spoken to people living in an occupied country, where the controlling army demanded certain demeaning services as of right - with severe punishment for those who refused.

This can be seen as a possible way of turning the tables on the oppressor, and retaining one's own integrity. The demands a soldier, for instance, could make was restricted by the Roman's own law, so the responses suggested in verse 29, may well have resulted in the person insulted somehow feeling more in control. It might even have resulted in a conversation!

A refusal to allow another person's bad or even evil behaviour to produce an equally bad response is a refusal to be less that the best we can be. A refusal to respond with another evil action becomes a refusal to co-operate with evil in any way. The increasing escalation of brutal response in today's world can lead to a justification of torture as an answer to terrorism, but the refusal to co-operate, and so reject evil, may be very costly. There is a pattern here that is seen most clearly revealed in the trial and crucifixion of Christ.

The reader is invited to look for ways to be God-like; to love as God loves. This love is not about passion as we understand it today (sexual or not) nor about affection, but about the Godly quality of compassion. This is a caring which is not interested in what someone deserves, but only concerned for their needs. This is a concern which never asks 'What do I get in return?', but is constantly generous when there is no return and no thanks at all. And again the rewards are only found in the relationship with the God who loves us all like that.

To Ponder

  • Reflect on the people you find most difficult; on all those situations when you want to retaliate or get even. How would you 'be merciful'?
  • How might you want to rewrite the chosen verses for situations in the world today?

Bible notes author

Revd Alison Tomlin

Alison Tomlin is a supernumerary Methodist minister, who was president of the Methodist Conference in 2010/2011. She has been involved for the last 25 years in leading retreats and offering prayer, accompanying both groups and individuals.